Former Commissioner Rufino Mijares of the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems (Coslap) was acquitted of direct bribery and graft charges but was found guilty of breach of conduct for soliciting P30,000 in exchange for speedy and favorable resolution of a case pending before it in 1997.
In a 35-page decision, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment for violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and fined him P5,000 with perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
Mijares was charged after an entrapment by the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force and after receipt of P30,000 from complainant Salud Sabado, who was accompanied by arresting officer Police Officer 2 Rosalie Santos.
The decision was penned by Fifth Division Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Doleres Gomez-Estoesta and concurred in by Chairman Roland Jurado and Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo.
The court found that direct bribery charge cannot thrive under the circumstances as Coslap has no jurisdiction over any land dispute or problem and any mediation conference it conducts would have no legal bearing on adjudication of the ejectment case.
“It cannot be said that the crime or act relates to the exercise of the functions of the accused as a public officer,” it said.
Mijares was acquitted of graft because the court found that the third element—undue injury—was not sufficiently proven.
Sabado passed away before she can finish her testimony and, as a result, Mijares lost his right to cross-examine the witness and her testimony was ordered expunged from the records in 2008.
The court said that as it appeared, Mijares did promise Sabado legal help, citing Santos who heard him say he would “take care” of the papers in the Court of Appeals and Coslap and in the context of such representation, the ruling further read, it was actually Mijares who induced them to give him P30,000.
The envelope containing the money was eventually found in a drawer in his office in the course of the entrapment.
Mijares said it was just Salud’s own perception and what she heard from others that he was wont to receive bribes, and that the money found on his drawer was the result of a frame-up.
But the court said when Salud and Santos went to his Coslap office on April 12, 2000, they were not there to induce him to commit the crime of soliciting for money for a case.
The court explained that the law prohibits the mere act of soliciting.