After 11 years, in a 15- page decision dated May 25, 2018, the fourth division of the graft court granted the demurrer to evidence of former municipal mayor Rolando Tigas and acquitted him of the crime charged.
The three-man court also ordered the acquittal of former SB member Rafael Guinto “for failure of the prosecution to prove his culpability.”
The surety bonds posted by the two were cancelled and the hold departure orders issued against them lifted.
On the other hand, found guilty for violation of Section 3(b) of RA 3019 and sentenced to suffer the penalty of imprisonment for six years and one month with perpetual disqualification from holding office were Clemenco Abella, Jr. and Hercules Llanda.
Abella is still SB member of Samal while Llanda ran and won in the May 14, 2018 elections as barangay chairman of Daan-Bago East in Samal.
The case stemmed from an anonymous letter dated March 27, 2007 received by the National Bureau of Investigation that reported the anomalous purchase of a lot by the municipality of Samal.
The NBI investigated the matter and on May 2, 2007 transmitted its findings to the Office of the Ombudsman, recommending the prosecution of the four officials.
The Ombudsman formally charged the officials before the Sandiganbayan on October 25, 2007.
The Sandiganbayan decision showed that the municipality of Samal on May 6, 2005 purchased two parcels of land with an area of 32,000 square meters at P90 per square meter for a total of P2.923 million. The Samal public market was built in the area.
The agreed price between the attorney-in-fact of the lot owners and the municipality was, however, only P2.5 million.The representative of the owners consented to receive only that amount although the Deed of Absolute Sale indicated that the purchase price was P2.923 million.
The four officials were charged “for requesting and receiving for their own benefit the amount of P513,000.” Abella and Llanda allegedly received P423,000 as the excess in the agreed purchase price of P2.5-M and P2.923-M actually paid and P90,000 as the attorney-in-fact supposed share in the payment of capital gains tax.
“Accused Abella and Llanda received said amounts without issuing any acknowledgement receipt whether official or otherwise,” the decision said.
The two claimed that the P513,000 was to answer for legitimate expenses such as payment for right-of-way and capital gains tax. The court, however, ruled that it cannot take their claim at face value in the absence of evidentiary support.
“The evidence shows that this was just a mere subterfuge to hide their real intention to defraud the municipality right from the start,” the ruling said.
The Sandiganbayan pointed out that the evidence showed that Abella and Llanda demanded and received P513,000 while Guinto was only present during the initial negotiation stage and absent when the said amount was turned over.
“For lack of proof beyond reasonable doubt that Tigas and Guinto received any sum, item, interest or benefi t from the sale of the subject properties, the Court is constrained to dismiss the charge against them,” the decision said.
The ruling against Abella and Llanda is still appealable to the Court of Appeals while the acquittal of Tigas and Guinto already final.
“Lumabas na katotohanan na wala akong pagkakasala. Maraming salamat sa Diyos, sa Sandiganbayan at sa lahat ng naniniwala sa akin,” Tigas said. He said he was hoping that their two companions will also be acquitted.
Tigas was mayor of Samal from 2004 to 2010. He became a member of the sangguniang panlalawigan from 2013 to the present.