MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has cleared the former mayor of Naga City, Cebu of graft charges arising from the renewal of a firm’s business permit in 2014.
In its 22-page decision dated Dec. 4 and made available Thursday, the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division through Associate Justice Karl Miranda acquitted former mayor Valdemar Chiong who has been charged for violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act
The court said Chiong did not act with evident bad faith, manifest partiality, and/or gross inexcusable negligence in issuing mayor’s permit in 2014 to Petronas Energy Philippines Inc. for its plant in Barangay Langtad, Naga City.
The charges claimed the renewal of the firm’s business permit had been issued by Chiong despite its lack of the annual pre-requisite Fire Safety Inspection Certification (FSIC) from the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).
The court, however, noted that the firm’s FSIC from the previous year was still valid at the time the business permit was issued.
“The FSIC issued to Petronas was valid until November 4, 2014. Petronas, therefore, had a valid FSIC issued by the BFP when Chiong issued a conditional mayor’s permit on April 7, 2014,” the court said.
The subsisting FSIC was issued by Acting City Fire Marshall Joel Abarquez, the city’s fire chief from October 2013 to January 2014. He was then succeeded by Vilma Abarquez, with whom Chiong coordinated in 2014.
Chiong was not even advised by Vilma that the said FSIC was still valid when Petronas applied for the renewal of its business permit.
“The BFP’s twin failure in this regard cannot be blamed on Chiong who eventually issued the conditional mayor’s permit,” the court said in acquitting Chiong in the charges.
Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Kevin Narce B. Vivero concurred. (PNA)