Ex-Romblon mayor, official acquitted, convicted in cases

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For a measly P20,000 spent over a hog dispersal project, former Looc, Romblon Mayor Manuel Arboleda and Municipal Planning and Development Coordinator Fermina Gaytano may have to spend the next six to eight years of their lives in prison.

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This after the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan found them guilty of graft for making it appear that there was a delivery of 40 piglets to the awardees of the town’s pig dispersal project.

It was not all bad news for the two though as the court also acquitted them from a falsification of public documents charge.

In a 26-page ruling released only recently, the Sandigan’s Second Division ruled that the prosecution failed to prove that the duo falsified any document relative to the abstract of quotation for 38 female and two male piglets for P500 each or a total of P20,000. The court also did not put any weight on the prosecutors’ claim that the two made it appear that a certain Nonie Severino won the bid for the delivery of the piglets when the latter did not even offer any quotation.

However, both Arboleda and Gaytano were sentenced for making it appear in the Report of Inspection and Delivery that “they inspected the deliveries of the piglets when there has been no delivery.”

The court gave weight to the testimonies of witnesses, especially Severino, who testified that no piglets were delivered on November 21, 1991 contrary to what was certified to by the accused.

“Without a doubt, had accused Arboleda and Gaytano not signed the Report of Inspection of Deliveries, payment would not have been made in favor of Nonie Severino and the Province of Romblon would not have been defrauded in the amount of P20,000,” the decision reads.

Each were sentenced six to eight years of imprisonment and fined P3,000.

The court found that Arboleda and Gaytano, who testified in their own defense, “did not rebut the claim of the prosecution that no delivery was made on the set date.”

“In fact, Gaytano stated that she signed the report because she had already seen the piglets in the house of one hog raiser in Pili about two weeks before she signed the document,” the ruling also read.

Arboleda, for his part, explained that he signed the document upon the request of Nelson Lim, then Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator, and because his subordinates already signed it.

The court observed that from his testimony, “it seems that he [Arboleda] merely relied on the representations made to him by Mr. Nelson Lim and that of his subordinates, contrary to the contents of his certification that he had personally inspected the delivered articles.”

Arboleda and Gaytano “perverted the truth when they signed the Report of Inspection of Deliveries. . . thus facilitating the payment of the therein named supplier” when they did not inspect the supposed delivered gilts and boars, nor did they have any personal knowledge if these were indeed delivered thus causing injury to the provincial government, the court ruled.

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