Ex-QC treasurer convicted of graft in seedling bank case
MANILA, Philippines – The former officer-in-charge of the Quezon City’s Treasurer’s Office has been convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan for ordering the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. (MSBFI) to pay over P42 million worth of real estate taxes.
According to the decision by the Seventh Division, dated Nov. 15, 2019, the actions of Edgar Villanueva disadvantaged the seedling bank by giving it a notice of delinquency and asking it to pay a sum of P42.8 million in back taxes.
MSBFI was then occupying a 7-hectare property on EDSA, which is owned and titled to the National Housing Authority (NHA). The NHA land should have not been taxed because its properties are tax-exempt.
The anti-graft court emphasized that Villanueva went on to tax MSBFI even if he was aware that a Regional Trial Court ruling decided that the foundation was exempted from taxes due to Presidential Decree No. 1197 — something that was affirmed by the Supreme Court.
“Since the accused readily admitted that he was aware of both rulings rendered by the Supreme Court and the RTC, it would have been prudent from him to verify the date of actual service of the notice of assessment to MSBFI before he proceeds to issue a notice of delinquency. This the accused utterly failed to do,” the decision written by Associate Justice Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta said.
“Accused’s actions, therefore, exhibited evident bad faith. Why he would duplicate the same act, albeit declared erroneous, by his predecessor is one to ruminate. Even if it were accused’s tangible objective to collect taxes to sustain the LGU’s lifeblood, his tax collection efforts should not be drawn from high-handed methods that overlook procedural due process as a right and remedy,” it added.
The Sandiganbayan went on to say that Villanueva’s measures ultimately led to the closure of MSBFI and the sale of its property through a public auction.
“It is palpable that the actions of the accused inflicted substantial damage to MSBFI in the form of lost business income,” the court noted.
“The accused imposed the collection of unpaid real estate tax against MSBFI, the padlocking of the subject property in July 2012 was effected due to said taxes which resulted in the immediate closure of the business of MSBFI, and said property was eventually sold through public auction,” it added.
Villanueva was sentenced to imprisonment for six years and one month up to a maximum of 10 years and was pronounced perpetually disqualified from public office.
He was also ordered to pay MSBFI a sum of P1.798 million in civil damages arising from the lost monthly rental income and the lost monthly sales.
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