Court acquits Alvin Garcia of election-related case

·3 min read

FORMER Cebu City mayor Alvin Garcia has been acquitted of an election-related criminal case filed in 2004 by his then political rival, former mayor Tomas Osmeña.

The case stemmed from Osmeña’s complaint that Garcia “willfully and unlawfully” printed election propaganda with the text “IT’S A NO CONTEST” from April 26, 2004 to April 28 and on May 2, 2004 during the campaign period for the May 10, 2004 elections.

In his complaint, Osmeña said the material published in the newspaper SunStar Daily (now SunStar Cebu) “more than thrice a week per publication for public information campaign” was designed to promote the election or candidacy of Garcia.

He said this publication “of so many advertisements in a short period of time” violated the Comelec law, which allowed only three advertisements in a week.

“The accused took advantage of his position. SunStar is a publication owned by the family of the accused. All his immediate family members are officers of the newspaper, negating his allegations in his answer to the complaint stating that he has no knowledge or control over the advertisements,” said Osmeña.

But in a seven-page decision penned by Judge Estela Alma Singco-Caruso on June 28, 2022, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 12 in Cebu City said Osmeña’s camp failed to adduce competent evidence to prove that indeed Garcia caused the publication of the ads and knew and/or consented to their publication.

Not guilty

Garcia was found innocent of violation of Section 6 of Republic Act (RA) 9066, as implemented by Section 13 of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Resolution 6520, in relation to Section 264 of the Omnibus Election Code.

“In proving that accused’s authority of the questioned advertisement, it would appear that the prosecution relied heavily on the allegation that the newspaper SunStar Daily is owned by the family of the accused, and thus it is presumed that the accused had control over its operations, including the printing,” the decision read.

During his arraignment on Feb. 22, 2016, Garcia pleaded not guilty to the charge.

In his affidavit, Garcia denied causing the publication of the material, stressing that it was paid for by the people who supported him in the May 10, 2004 elections.

He said these supporters did not inform or ask for his permission before the political ads were published.

He also said the ads were published by and for their political party in the name of Kusog-KNP Party and he was not the only candidate named in the material, as the complete lineup of the party was listed.

Garcia also denied SunStar is his family’s business. He said it is a corporation and he does not in any way hold any managerial position in the company nor is he involved in the decision making.

He said he was just a stockholder at the time and he did not have any power or influence over the publication.

In its ruling, the RTC Branch 12 said: “Conviction based merely on speculation and conjecture cannot satisfy the question of evidence required for a pronouncement of guilt, i.e. proof beyond reasonable doubt of his complicity in the crime.”

“Thus when the guilt of the accused has not been proven with moral certainty, such as the case at bar, it is a policy of long standing that the presumption of innocence of the accused must be favored and his exoneration be granted as a matter of right,” it added.

No thanks

SunStar Cebu was able to reach Osmeña for comment but the former city mayor declined to be interviewed.

“No, thank you,” Osmeña said before hanging up. (with IRT)