Bulacan town mayor acquitted of graft
MANILA, Philippines – Mayor Alfredo Germar of Norzagaray in Bulacan has been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of graft in a case stemming from alleged illegal hiring of six consultants in 2013.
In its decision released last Oct. 25, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division said the prosecution failed to prove that Germar disadvantaged the government when he entered into a contract of service with the consultants without the approval of the Municipal Council.
According to the prosecution, the consultants — Mamerto Manahan, Danilo Leonardo, Edilberto Guballa, Rodolfo Santos, Epifanio Payumo and Enrique Boticario — received two salaries worth P55,178.50 from Oct. 1 to 15 and Oct. 16 to 31 in 2013.
“Undue injury means actual damage. It must be established by evidence and must have been caused by the questioned conduct of the offenders. Unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference means giving a gain of any kind without justification or adequate reason,” Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, Sixth Division chair, said in the decision.
The court also noted that the only irregularity was Germar’s inability to inform the Municipal Council before he decided to hire the consultants.
It also banked on the testimonies of witnesses — human resource department head Silangan Rivas and legislative consultant Rochelle Torres — who said that the consultants actually attended meetings, indicating that they rendered actual service.
“Similarly, the payment of the amounts […] to the consultants cannot be considered an unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference. Witness Rivas testified that Mamerto Manahan, as consultant, was present at a meeting she attended, wherein they discussed problems with the remittance of real property tax payments,” the decision said.
“On the other hand, witness Torres testified that she worked with the six consultants when she worked for the accused as Senior Administrative Consultant III. These would show that the consultants rendered services. In the absence of proof to the contrary, the consultants were entitled to such amounts because the Municipal Government of Norzagaray was contractually bound to pay them,” it added.
Germar, who also won the mayoral post in 2016, was removed from office after the Office of the Ombudsman imposed a perpetual ban from office. However, the Supreme Court reinstated him last November 2018, disregarding the Ombudsman order.
The graft complaints against Germar were filed by former Mayor Feliciano Legaspi in 2014.
With the decision, the hold departure order against him was lifted and set aside while the bail bond he posted was ordered released.
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.