Ex-DAR Region 12 officer convicted for demanding cash, tuna
MANILA, Philippines — A former official of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Region XII has been found guilty of graft for extorting P120,000 and a whole tuna from petitioners seeking a temporary restraining order (TRO).
In the decision by the Sixth Division last April 29, Regional Agrarian Reform Adjudicator Henry Gelacio violated Section 3 of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Section 7 of R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
According to the information filed by the prosecution, Gelacio demanded the money and the fish in November 2007 from complainants in a DAR Adjudication Board (DARAB) case docketed as No. XII-990-SC-2007.
Sandiganbayan banked on the testimonies of lawyer Johnny Landero, whose client Eduardito Garbo was one of the complainants who supposedly sent money and gifts to Gelacio.
Landero testified that his client gave a total of P40,000 to Gelacio, who also asked for the fish.
Other petitioners reportedly gave P80,000 to the official.
According to Landero, Garbo borrowed ice boxes where the tuna could be stored before handing it over to the adjudicator.
The lawyer said he met with Gelacio at the Crossing Makar junction in General Santos City, where the DAR official’s driver supposedly helped in transferring the tuna from his vehicle to the pick-up truck of the adjudicator.
“While the Court cannot accord probative value upon the following pieces of evidence […] the defense, however, failed to dispute the straightforward, positive, and detailed personal accounts of Atty. Landero on the giving of one whole tuna fish and of Mrs. Garbo on the handing over of the total amount of Php 40,000.00, in two separate occasions, all of which were solicited and accepted by the accused,” the court said.
“The prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the aggregate amount of P40,000 and the one whole tuna fish sought and received by the accused, was in consideration of a favorable issuance of a TRO and Injunction Order in the case […] which was assigned to the accused for adjudication,” they added.
Gelacio denied the accusations but the anti-graft court cited a Supreme Court ruling which explains that mere denial is a “weak defense which cannot outweigh positive testimony”.
“Other than the above unsupported general denial, accused failed to recount his own version of facts in order to refute the detailed narration of events made by the prosecution witnesses,” the decision penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero said.
“No less than the defense admitted that denial is inherently weak. The defense is accurate on this point. It is a time honored principle that the positive testimony by a witness destroys the defense of denial,” they added.
With the decision, Gelacio is ordered to serve a jail sentence of six years and one month up to eight years for the graft case, and one year and one month up to five years for the code of ethical standards case.
He is also disqualified from holding public office after serving his term, aside from being ordered to pay a fine of P5,000. /cbb
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.