A former mayor in the province of Palawan faces 40 years in jail for tampering four checks, cashing them, and using for his personal benefit what should be paid to private firms.
In a 17-page decision, the Sandiganbayan convicted Samson Degillo, former mayor of Rizal of four counts of estafa for signing the dorsal portions of the checks the names of the payees and pocketing the money.
The four checks amounted to P68,432.76 payable to TGT Shell and JGT Trading.
During trial, the Office of the Ombudsman presented seven witnesses, among them, Dolo-rosa Alcasid.
The state witness and clerk assigned to Degillo’s office said she was invited by the provincial council “to explain about the complaints” of the private entities.
She showed her the logbook record of checks to the council who had it photocopied.
When Degillo knew of the incident, Alcasid said that the mayor “was so angry and he wanted the record book to be returned.”
She added that Degillo took the logbook and only returned it two years after with a new one, wherein she was asked to reconstruct the logbook which had “many alterations and marking that she did not make.”
In his defense, Degillo said that he encounters multitude of checks daily which would be forwarded to her secretaries.
“With respect to the subject checks, the trail ended in [Degillo’s] office. Alcasid testified that when she received the bundle of checks to be returned to the Office of the Municipal Treasurer, the subject checks were not included,” the decision read.
The court added that those checks were cashed because of the indorsements found at the back of the checks.
“The indorsements were falsified as the very person authorized by the payee to sign the documents stated that those signatures are not his signatures,” the ruling upheld.
The signatures also found in the dorsal portions of the checks “are imitations.”
The court resolved that while there is no direct evidence linking Degillo to the falsification of the signatures, the hypothesis is the checks never came out of his office once it was forwarded to him for signature.
“The presumption of authorship of the falsification arises under the circumstances. The presumption that whoever has in his possession or uses a spurious document is its forger,” the court ruled.
Through the falsification, the court said that estafa was achieved when Degillo did not return the cash for payment.
Degillo did not also account for the proceeds of the checks intended for transactions with JGT and TGT establishments, the court noticed.
“In a crime of estafa, reimbursement or belated payment to the offended party of the money swindled by the accused does not extinguish the criminal liability of the accused,” the court resolved.
In handing out the sentence, the Sandiganbayan said that Degillo committed a “complex crime” of estafa through falsification of public document.
One count of estafa yielded a maximum of 10 years behind bars, totaling 40 years in Degillo’s case.
Associate Justice Maria Cristina Cornejo penned the decision with acting Presiding Justice Gregory One and Associate Justice Jose Hernandez concurring.