MANILA—The Sandiganbayan has convicted a Negros Occidental town mayor and 11 others in connection with the alleged anomalous contract involving a PHP60-million loan.
The incumbent and former officials of Canlaon City, Negros Occidental are facing six years to nine years imprisonment, including perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
This after prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) successfully proved that the accused forged two deals in December 2005 under terms and conditions manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.
Convicted of violation of Section 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, are Mayor Jimmy Clerigo, City Treasurer Luisa Luza, incumbent Sangguniang Panglungsod (SP) members Diego Santiago, Jose Chubasco Cardenas, Aldin Avila and Mamerto Bermil, Jr., former Mayor Judith Cardenas (2 counts), and SP ex-members Edgar Estampador, Roberto Bolo, Amado Delos Reyes, Pedro Montero and Wagner Bekim Cardenas.
During trial, it was found Clerigo, et al. authorized and contracted a PHP60-million loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) intended for livelihood projects of the city hall employees.
Subsequently, the funds were re-loaned to the Canlaon City Government Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative (CCGEMCO).
As a loan collateral, the accused gave DBP the unqualified authority and power to apply the loan guarantee against special savings deposit of the city, including its share in the internal revenue allotment.
Effectively, the Ombudsman said “the situation was tantamount to assigning the full control of the city’s coffers to an entity that had nothing to do with the administration and management of the city.”
In its 19-page ruling, the Sandiganbayan said the funds for priority projects and delivery of basic needs of the constituents of the city was “imminently jeopardized” when all the accused compromised the city’s deposit with DBP, while the transfer to CCGEMCO amounted to a financial assistance extended by a local government unit to a non-governmental organization and has benefited only the CCGEMCO members.
The Sandiganbayan did not subscribe to the contention of the accused that the loan was made in the course of their official duties.
It said “lest the defense forget, the accused are being tried for a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. By the nature of the offense, the acts complained of are those committed by the respondents while in the performance of official duty. As made clear in its Statement of Policy, the purpose of the law (R.A. No. 3019) is to repress certain acts of public officers and private persons alike which constitute graft or corrupt practices or which may lead thereto.”
It added “conspiracy among the accused was clearly established” as “the city mayor and city treasurer’s contract of loan with the DBP was with the concurrence of the vice-mayor, and members of the Sanggunian.”