MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has cleared a former town mayor in Leyte province and convicted seven others in graft charges arising from the officials’ refusal to recognize the appointment of a member of the Sangguniang Bayan, who was appointed by the provincial governor to replace a resigned council member, 24 years ago.
In its 34-page decision written by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero and dated Jan. 24, the anti-graft court’s sixth division found former Hilongos town mayor Altagracia Villaflor not guilty with the tribunal citing that “the evidence of the prosecution failed to sufficiently establish all the elements of the crime charged and for failure of the prosecution to overcome the presumption of innocence.”
The tribunal instead found former vice mayor Panfilo Go, and municipal sangguniang bayan mambers Lamberto Rainier Flanco, Manuel Gabisan, Epifania Nerves, Lilia Sabando, Edwin Faller and Rogelio Yan guilty of graft and sentenced them to imprisonment of up to 10 years. It also ordered their perpetual disqualification from holding office.
The charges arose from the officials’ refusal in 1999 to recognize the appointment of a member of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB), Trinidad C. Cabardo, who was appointed by the then provincial governor, Remedios Petilla, to replace resigned SB member Teogenes Caing. The opposition to allowing Cabardo to take her seat arose from her previous membership with another party during the previous election.
Ruling otherwise, the Sandiganbayan also found the accused liable for their acts in not allowing Cabardo to sit and participate in its session as member without valid ground as well as deprived her of her salaries and allowances despite a valid appointment from the governor and the endorsement of the Lakas party designating her as a member.
“Except for accused Villaflor, all of the accused’s acts show that they were unified in refusing to recognize Cabardo’s appointment and depriving her of the position and salaries due her,” the anti-graft court said. (PNA)