• Ex-gov convicted in SUV case

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    The Sandiganbayan Second Division found former Misamis Oriental Governor Antonio Calingin guil-ty of malversation of public properties after he allegedly “cannibalized” and failed to return two sports utility vehicles to the province.

    Calingin, who served as governor for two terms from July 1998 to July 2004, was slapped with an indeterminate sentence of 10 to 18 years in prison, fined P2,082,385 and was perpetually disqualified from holding any government position.

    In the decision penned by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera and concurred by Second Division Chairman Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan, it appeared Calingin used two Toyota Hi-Lux SUVs during his incumbency.

    However, after his term ended, Calingin failed to return the vehicles to the Provin-cial Government despite repeated notices.

    This prompted his successor, Governor Oscar Moreno, to create a Provincial Retrieval Team, which was able to trace the vehicles inside a warehouse in Claveria, Misamis Oriental. The warehouse was owned by Mario Calingin, the former governor’s brother. In pushing the case, the Ombudsman prosecutors insisted that Calingin failed to account for the two SUVs.

    “There is no dispute that following the failure of accused Antonio Calingin to account for the vehicles after demands were made for their return, the vehicles were found at the warehouse of his brother,” the decision read.

    However, the court said that Mario cannot be held liable under the charge because he has nothing to do with the vehicles and that he has even asked his brother several times to remove it.

    “When the Provincial Retrieval Team . . . arrived, he [Mario] cooperated in the retrieval of the vehicles and even offered his forklift which was actually used in loading the vehicles to a prime mover—matters affirmed by the prosecution evidence,” the ruling read in part.

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