Sandiganbayan acquits Maguindanao vice gov of perjury charges
MANILA, Philippines – Incumbent Maguindanao Vice Governor Lester Sinsuat has been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan of perjury charges filed against him when he was still mayor of Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS) in the same province.
The decision from the Fifth Division, released last November 22, stated that there was reasonable doubt that Sinsuat committed perjury when some of his properties were not listed in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
While Sinsuat enlisted his various properties in Davao City and Datu Odin Sinsuat in his 2011 and 2012 SALNs, he allegedly failed to place two other properties in the Awang, Barangay Tamontaka area of DOS.
The first property was a 4,220 square meter residential area in Awang, with a tax declaration and transfer certificate of title pointing to Sinsuat, and the other property was a one-hectare rice upland and a hectare of cocoland in Barangay Capiton.
“The prosecution claims that the accused willfully and deliberately committed falsehood in his 2011 and 2012 SALNs,” the decision written by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac said.
“The accused, however, categorically stated that the questioned properties were declared […] and invoked good faith in not providing the exact details of these properties,” she added.
Sandiganbayan sided with the accused, saying there was no intent to hide the properties — although they conceded that he can be sanctioned administratively.
“Thusly, while accused’s failure to pay attention to the minute details of his SALN is ground to sanction him administratively, the same does not warrant a conviction for perjury, absent any strong evidence of his deliberate intention to assert something that is not true,” the court explained.
“Given the foregoing, the Court is not swayed that the accused’s alleged omission in the 2011 and 2012 SALNs of the subject properties were deliberate and intentional,” it added.
With this decision, the bail bonds he posted were ordered released while the hold departure order was lifted and set aside. He was also not ordered to pay any civil liability as no civil damage was recorded.
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