Former Iloilo town mayor left saddled with P700K fine

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    A FORMER municipal mayor from Iloilo who had earlier won approval from the Sandiganbayan to share the burden of a P700,000 fine with a co-accused ended up having to pay the full sum after the other defendant was discharged for having her probation.

    Rosario Fernandez, former mayor of San Enrique, Iloilo and her co-defendant, municipal treasurer Imelda Celebrar, pled guilty to lesser offenses on March 1, 2018 and were sentenced to pay fines of P80,000 for 16 counts of violation of RA 8291 or the Government Service Insurance Act and P620,000 for 11 counts violation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9679 or the Pag-IBIG Fund Law.

    The cases stemmed from the findings of graft investigators that the two failed to remit the GSIS contributions of municipal government employees for March to December 2011 and June to December 2012 even if these were deducted from the employees’ pay totaling P5.34 million.

    Likewise, Pag-IBIG contributions from February 2011 to January 2012 were not remitted to the Home Development Mutual Fund.

    In her motion for reconsideration filed on March 12, 2018, Fernandez asked the Sandiganbayan Second Division to modify the order to make her and Celebrar pay the fines solidarily (shared), arguing that making them pay separately would double the penalty amount.

    This was granted by the court on April 20, 2018.

    However, Celebrar applied for and was granted probation. Having served the term set, she was discharged by the court on January 22, 2020 which meant all her liabilities have been terminated.

    Citing this development, Fernandez again went to the court to be allowed to pay only her share or half of the P700,000 fines or P350,000.

    The court refused, noting that haggling over the fine is not allowed since the penalties are imposed by law to which Fernandes had already submitted a guilty plea.

    “Accused Celebrar dealt with penalties by applying for and undergoing probation… complying with the terms and conditions thereof that led to her discharge. That will not absolve accused Fernandez prom paying the fines,” the court pointed out.