Sandigan affirms forfeiture of ex-Customs exec’s property
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has affirmed a Manila court ruling allowing the government to seize the suspected ill-gotten property of a retired Bureau of Customs official.
In a 28-page decision dated July 18, the court’s Third Division denied the appeal of former Customs Operation Officer Manuel Valencia on the Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 37’s Sept. 15, 2015 order in favor of the Office of the Ombudsman.
The 2015 court order granted on appeal the Ombudsman’s forfeiture petition covering five contiguous parcels of land in Parañaque City acquired in 1988 for P1,225,070.00 despite Valencia only earning an
annual basic salary of P47,622.00 at the time.
The Sandiganbayan said the Manila RTC correctly ruled that the purchase of the land was “manifestly out of proportion” to Valencia’s salary. It added that he failed to present evidence to overcome the presumption of anomaly.
“All told, save for his bare allegations, respondent-appellant has failed to provide any adequate substantiation to his alleged other lawful sources of income,” the decision read.
Although Valencia claimed he was able to use the proceeds of the 1977 sale of his family’s property in upscale Dasmariñas Village in Makati City, the court noted that the cancelled title did not contain any
indication as to the value of the sale.
Valencia argued that the court should have taken judicial notice of the fact that the prime properties in the area were expensive, but the decision stated that “courts cannot indulge in guesswork.”
The court also pointed out that even if the Dasmariñas property was sold for a sizeable sum, it would still be unlikely for him to retain all that amount for the next 11 years before buying the Parañaque lots.
“The daily expenses of life would have undoubtedly whittled away from said amount,” read the decision. “On the other hand, had such an amount indeed remained intact or put to work in lawful commerce or
deposit, the same could have been easily established by even the barest of documentary evidence.”
The anti-graft court also rejected Valencia’s argument that the forfeiture proceedings should not have happened under the res judicata doctrine, which has barred the re-litigation of an already settled matter.
Valencia tried to cite the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court’s June 2008 and April 2011 decisions to set aside the Ombudsman’s administrative ruling finding him guilty of dishonesty and dismissing him from the government service.
However, the Sandiganbayan noted that the administrative ruling tackled the issue of dishonesty, not his capacity as a public officer to purchase the real properties. SFM
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