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CA reverses conviction of 5 DENR men in Aklan extortion case

ILOILO CITY—The Court of Appeals has reversed the dismissal of five employees of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Aklan who were found guilty of extorting P500,000 from a land owner.

In two separate decisions, the Court of Appeals in Cebu City overturned the Aug. 25, 2017 decision of Ombudsman-Visayas finding the employees guilty of violating Republic Act 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Stands for Public Officials and Employees) and the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service.

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In a 17-page decision promulgated on Sept. 28, 2018, the CA’s 20th division reversed the dismissal of former Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Officer-Aklan (Penro) Ivene Reyes but upheld the decision on the four others.

The court said “no substantial evidence” existed to establish Reyes’ actual involvement in the solicitation and receipt of the money.

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But in a 10-page decision promulgated on Jan. 15, 2020, the CA’s Special Former 20th Division modified its Sept. 28, 2018 decision and granted the motion for reconsideration filed by Jonne Adaniel, Alvaro Nonan, Nilo Subbong and Ceaser Guarino.

“After taking a second look of the records of the case, this Court finds that there is no substantial evidence to hold petitioners Adaniel, Nonan, Subong and Guarino administratively liable,” said the decision.

The case stemmed from a complaint of land owner Lucia Malicse-Helaria who requested for a certification of land classification for a family property at the village of Napaan in Malay town.

Helaria alleged that the four DENR employees  first asked for and received P25,000 when they conducted a survey on her land.

While allegedly inside the office of Reyes, the four allegedly later asked for P500,000 for the issuance of a certification that her property is alienable and disposal since the land was classified as timberland.

The DENR employees had denied the allegations saying there was no instance when they asked for money from Helaria.

Reyes, as quoted in the Ombudsman decision, denied instructing any of his employees to offer Helaria the reclassification of the property.

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The appellate court said the findings of the Ombudsman “has no factual and legal basis.”

It cited among others an excerpt of the official log book of visitors of Penro Aklan purportedly showing that Lucia and cousin Vito were not among those who visited the office on the date they claimed the alleged extortion happened.

The Jan. 15 decision was penned by Associate Justice Dorothy Montejo-Gonzaga and concurred in by Associate Justices Pamela Ann Abella-Maxino and Carlito Calpatura.

Edited by TSB
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TAGS: Aklan, Classification, DENR, extortion, Land
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