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Sandigan convicts Albay ex-mayor, Bukidnon mayor

The Sandiganbayan has convicted former Camalig, Albay Mayor Paz Muñoz for graft and corruption and Kibawe, Bukidnon Mayor Luciano Ligan for technical malversation, the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) announced yesterday.

The OMB said Munoz together with Municipal Engineer Rene Ortonio were sentenced up to eight years in jail over anomalous maintenance contracts for the town’s five service vehicles in 2003.

The anti-graft court also barred them from holding public office in the future.

The case arose from the report of the Commission on Audit (CoA) that all repairs, including carwash for the vehicles, were made by Legazpi Tireworld Corporation for the exorbitant amount of P447,027.

The CoA also noted irregularities such as the lack of pre- and post-inspection reports and canvass for the repairs, undated requests for bids and the submission of bids.

Upon inspection, CoA also found that two of the vehicles were not in running condition.

As defense, Muñoz claimed that it was an “honest mistake that she inadvertently missed because of her voluminous work.”

The 23-page decision penned by Associate Justice Napoleon Inoturan stated that “these irregularities are too numerous and blatant to be attributable to honest mistake.”

The court stressed that “the prosecution has sufficiently proven beyond reasonable doubt that the signatures of the accused appearing in the documents submitted and their respective participation, acting with manifest partiality and evident bad faith, resulted in the award of repair and maintenance of the vehicles and the subsequent release of the checks for the services rendered by and supplies from Legazpi Tireworld.”

On the other hand, Ligan together with Municipal Treasurer Asuncion Codilla, Budget Officer Narciso Chavez, Jr. and Municipal Accountant Ellen Piquero were fined equivalent to five percent of the amount malversed as prescribed under the Revised Penal Code (RPC)

Ombudsman Morales said they were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of diverting funds appropriated by the Sanggunian for tourism activities and the Kaamulan festival to the construction of a tourism function hall.

The Sandiganbayan said it was “not persuaded by the accused’s strained attempts to link the construction with tourism activities” and explained that it “fails to see the slightest connection between the promotion of tourism/participation in the Kaamulan Festival with the construction of the Tourism Function Hall.” (JUN RAMIREZ)