Biliran ex-mayor gets 16 months in jail for naming wrong spouse in SALN
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has convicted a former Biliran mayor for perjury in his asset disclosure reports—not for misdeclaring his wealth, but for naming the wrong spouse.
In a 23-page decision, the court’s Fifth Division imposed on former Cabucgayan mayor Arnelito Garing a straight penalty of 16 months’ imprisonment for committing two counts of perjury in his 2000 and 2001
Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
In his two declarations, he included the name of his common-law wife Maurilina Oledan Garing, instead of his legal wife Generosa Arcenio Dosal, whom the former mayor said went missing in September 1994 after
barely 17 months of marriage.
The court was convinced that Garing made a “willful and deliberate assertion of falsehood” despite his defense that the SALN did not explicitly require him to state the name of his legal spouse and not
the common-law wife.
“As municipal mayor, he should have known that his marriage persisted despite the years of alleged absence of Generosa,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Rafael R. Lagos and concurred in by
Associate Justices Reynaldo P. Cruz and Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega.
The court even noted that Garing only filed a petition to declare Generosa presumptively dead on Dec. 19, 2005, a month after a criminal complaint was filed on Nov. 16, 2005. This showed an attempt to avoid criminal liability by making sure the missing spouse was no longer his wife.
The court also rejected the argument that the name of his wife was not a material matter. It noted that the identity of the legal spouse would be relevant in properly establishing the extent of a public official’s wealth.
“Such a fraudulent act could lead to far-reaching implications considering the laws of the land on marriage and family relations vis-à-vis the law on public officers and graft and corruption,” the decision noted.
Garing got off with just the minimum sentence because he voluntarily surrendered before the court issued a warrant of arrest in his case.
He was also acquitted with regards to the 2002 and 2003 SALNs because there was doubt on the authority of notary Arleen Vic Ochondra to administer his oath. SFM
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