Ex-Tayabas mayor, councilors convicted of graft, get 12 years

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    FORMER Tayabas City mayor Faustino Silang and five former members of the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) have been convicted of two counts of graft by the Sandiganbayan in connection to the unlawful hiring of a private lawyer to represent the city government in pending court cases in 2013.

    In a 25-page decision, the Third Division found the accused guilty of violation of section 3 (e) and (j) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) for giving unwarranted benefits to the private counsel even if he was not entitled to the post under the Local Government Code (RA 7160).

    Together with Silang, also sentenced to six to 10 years of imprisonment for each count of graft were SP members Venerando Rea, Rex Abadilla, Marfeo Jacela, Abelardo Abrigo, and Macario Reyes. All accused were also barred from holding any other position in government.

    Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno penned the verdict with Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez concurring.

    The court held that under the Local Government Code, it is mandatory for a province, city or municipality to appoint a provincial, city or municipal legal officer.

    The court swept aside the defense argument that the position of city legal officer has been left vacant because nobody applied for the position.

    The SP members were also held liable for approving a resolution that authorized the former mayor to engage the services of a private lawyer even after the Commission on Audit had earlier cautioned the city government that doing so is against the law.

    “They knowingly and intentionally granted privilege in favor of a person no qualified and specifically barred by the LGC to represent the city. It can be concluded that their acts, taken collectively, satisfactorily establish the existence of conspiracy among them,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    However, the anti-graft court acquitted former vice mayor Luzviminda Cuadra citing lack of evidence that she even participated in the SP resolution.