THE Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division sentenced the former vice mayor of Carmen, Bohol to imprisonment of up to 10 years but acquitted the former mayor in the graft case they both faced in connection with road improvement projects in 2003.
The court found former vice mayor Josil Trabajo “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and sentenced him to six to a maximum of 10 years in prison “with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.”
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case in 2008, alleging in part that former mayor Pedro Budiongan Jr. and Trabajo allowed the sale of 501 loads of limestone to the municipality for the improvementof the Vallehermoso-Montehermoso and Luan La-Salvacion Roads.
The court said in part that Trabajo admitted that he was one of the suppliers of “anapog” (limestone) and was named as payee in the disbursement voucher and check for P75,150 and as “supplier in the delivery receipts.”
In his defense, Trabajo maintained he did not benefit from the transaction as it was on loan and was paid only a year after.
But the anti-graft court, citing a precedent Supreme Court ruling, said it “cannot give credence to this defense, because it has previously been ruled that failure to show that [accused]profited from the transaction would not necessarily result in acquittal.”
The court added that Trabajo cannot exonerate himself from culpability by arguing that it was the former municipal engineer who suggested that he supply the limestone instead, because he is a local government official who “should have known the rules and prohibitions with regard to conflict of interest.”
In the same decision which acquitted Budiongan, the court partly said that signing of the disbursement voucher and check as payment for the supply of limestone cannot be interpreted as intervention on the former mayor’s part for the release of funds, because he merely relied on the signatures of the municipal engineer, municipal accountant and municipal treasurer.
The court also ordered the return of the cash bail bond Budiongan posted and canceled the hold departure order issued against him.
Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division head, Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, penned the ruling that Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Geraldine Faith Econg concurred in.