MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has ruled to continue with the trial of a former Bataan provincial governor facing graft charges.

A resolution dated Nov. 3 written by Associate Justice Edgardo M. Caldona turned down a motion filed by Leonardo B. Roman, then Bataan provincial governor, who is accused of graft in the 2003 contract for the construction of a mini-theater at the Bataan State College in Abucay town which allegedly benefited a private contractor, VF Construction.

Roman had filed a "motion for leave to file a demurrer to evidence" last September which seeks the outright dismissal of a case based on the apparent insufficiency of the prosecution's evidence even without the defense giving its side.

"After a circumspect consideration of the arguments presented by the parties, the Court is of the considered view that the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence (filed by Roman) is bereft of merit," the court said in ordering the case to proceed.

The construction contract had been ruled to be void and illegal as found by the Commission on Audit (COA) in its audit observation memorandum, which cited a lack of valid appropriation and noticed that there had been no stipulation on the period of performance or target completion date.

Despite the defects in the contract, Roman allegedly signed questionable documents particularly a certificate of acceptance, an accomplishment report, and a certificate of completion as well as checks made to the firm amounting to PHP3.31 million.

The COA also said the construction was only 50 percent completed contrary to the alleged completion of the project. (PNA)