Ex-Bohol town mayor convicted for illegally collecting business plate fees
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has convicted the former mayor of Carmen town in Bohol for illegally charging applicants fees intended for business permit plates in 2009.
According to a decision by the Second Division last May 31, former Mayor Manuel Molina and municipal treasurer Fulgencio Paña are both guilty of Illegal Exaction, according to Article 213, paragraph 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code after they collected an additional P300 per business permit applicant.
The information filed by the prosecution claimed that the accused have collected at least P110,000 worth of payment for the plates, which are displayed at establishments as proof of accreditation by the local government unit (LGU).
Molina initially tried to put the blame on Paña, saying that he is not directly involved in the collection of business taxes. He then cited the first element needed to prove illegal exaction, which is to be a public officer “entrusted with the collection of taxes, licenses, fees, and other imposts”.
However, Paña claimed that business fee applicants, even after they finished transaction with him, were ordered by Molina to return to pay the additional P300.
This was noted by the court in its rebuff, which also said that collecting taxes is part of the municipal mayor’s responsibility — implying that he has knowledge of the scheme.
“Accused Molina, however, maintains in his Counter-Affidavit that since he is not directly or actually tasked with the collection of taxes or fees, he is not a public officer within the purview of the first element. He instead points a finger to […] Paña, whom the law explicitly vests the responsibility of local revenue collection,” the decision written by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera said.
“But even as defendant Molina attempts to extricate himself from liability by quibbling on the phraseology of the initial element, the invisible hand behind the collection of the additional charge from business permit applicants cannot be denied,” the anti-graft court added.
Aside from this, Sandiganbayan also took into consideration Section 342 of the Local Government Code, which says that superior officers participating in “such illegal or improper use or application of government funds” should be “jointly and severally liable with the local treasurer”.
Section 470 which says that treasurers should be under the administrative supervision of the governor or mayor was also pointed out.
“More to the point, the Code highlights the tight relationship between the Mayor, as chief executive of the LGU, and the treasurer in the devolved power of taxation,” the court said.
Both Molina and Paña are required by the Court to pay the maximum fine of P10,000, as the crime was committed before much lower penalties prescribed by the RPC were adjusted by Republic Act 10951. (Editor: Julie Espinosa)
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