Camarines Norte legal officer gets 6 years for graft


    WHEN a veterinarian and a legal officer clashed on the question of law, the vet walked away with the money while the lawyer ended up with the jail sentence.

    The Sandiganbayan Third Division convicted Sim O. Mata Jr., provincial legal officer of Camarines Norte, of graft and sentenced him from six to 10 years imprisonment for the unlawful transfer of complainant Edgardo Gonzales, provincial veterinarian.

    Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang penned the 53-page decision concurred in by Associate Justices Bernelito R. Fernandez and Ronald B. Moreno.

    On top of the jail term, the court also perpetually disqualified Mata from holding public office.

    Gonzales, meanwhile, will receive P714,168 representing the salary he was supposed to receive for 2015 after he was unlawfully removed from his post.

    Case records showed the complainant was re-assigned to the Provincial Information Office on March 1, 2012 on the recommendation of Mata to Gov. Edgardo Tallado.

    Gonzales disputed his removal from office, invoking the Magna Carta for Health Workers and filing a petition with the Civil Service Commission.

    In a decision dated August 9, 2012, the CSC upheld the veterinarian’s stand and ordered the provincial government to reinstate him to his former post.

    Instead of complying, the provincial government filed a motion for reconsideration that was eventually denied by the CSC.

    Gonzales, however, was not able to return and resume his work as the case was elevated all the way to the Court of Appeals until he retired in 2015.

    While the prosecution named Tallado and administrative officer Mario dela Cruz as co-accused, both were acquitted on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to prove their guilt.

    Mata was pronounced guilty for acting with evident bad faith when he insisted on challenging the CSC ruling despite the commission’s order that Gonzales is classified as a health worker under RA 7305 or the Magna Carta of Public Health Workers.

    “Accused Mata, being then the provincial legal officer, had the primary responsibility to soundly advice accused Tallado on all legal matters. As the evidence show however, he advised accused Tallado in utter breach of explicit provisions of the law,” the Sandiganbayan said.