Antigraft court upholds suspension of mayor
The antigraft court Sandiganbayan has its hands full these days, meting out penalties on erring government officials and being bombarded with appeals from others pleading to be spared from punishments.
On Sept. 6, the court upheld an order meting out a 90-day preventive suspension of Mayor Mariano Malones, of Maasin town, Leyte province, for alleged irregularities in the town’s acquisition of a truck which was made to appear to have been donated, but was actually bought by the municipal government without bidding.
In another case, former Mayor Apollo Feraren, of San Teodoro town, Oriental Mindoro province, pleaded for the reversal of his conviction for graft, made by the Sandiganbayan on Sept. 19 and finding Feraren guilty of allowing a private individual to use government-owned heavy equipment for free.
In Malones’ case, Teodoro Sumagaysay, Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Iloilo director, said the suspension order was received by the mayor on Oct. 13.
The suspension order came in relation to charges of graft and falsification of documents filed against Malones, municipal treasurer Edna Madarico and private respondent Ma. Theresa delos Reyes.
The officials were accused of complicity in irregularities allegedly committed in the acquisition of a garbage compactor truck for the municipality in 2001.
The Commission on Audit (COA) found that the truck came from a Japanese businessman, Hiyoruki Tsuchiya, of the firm RH International Co. Ltd. in Japan.
Malones and Madarico allegedly falsified documents to make it appear that the truck was donated when it was actually bought by the Maasin government without public bidding for P380,000.
Malones repeatedly denied the allegations insisting that the truck was donated and the amount paid was for its import duty.
In the case of Feraren, the former mayor appealed his conviction claiming that he was found guilty based on hearsay testimony.
Statements of witnesses
The Sandiganbayan, in its Sept. 19 ruling, cited statements made by heavy equipment drivers Nestor Elis and Roberto Santero that, in July 2004, Feraren authorized the lease of the municipal government’s dump truck, backhoe and grader to Eugene Li, owner of Supergreen Coconut Fiber Factory for free.
Feraren argued that accountability for pieces of property owned by the municipal government lies with the foreman designated as supply and property officer and the municipal treasurer.
His plea for reconsideration said Feraren’s “lack of personal knowledge” is “practically rational and sensible.”
Feraren argued that he would not have known of the use of government equipment for a private business since he started serving his term as mayor only in July 2004.
Aside from sentencing him to 10 years in prison, the Sandiganbayan’s fourth division also penalized Feraren with perpetual disqualification from public office.
The Sandiganbayan had described the testimony of Elis and the other witnesses as “categorical.”
Feraren said in his petition that the testimony given by witnesses “even constituted double hearsay.” —WITH A REPORT FROM VINCE F. NONATO
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