Labor arbiter gets 2 years for soliciting P2M in cash

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    LABOR arbiter Jesus Orlando M. Quiñones has been convicted by the Sandiganbayan for soliciting P2 million from a private school official in exchange for a reversal of his adverse ruling in a labor case.

    In a 47-page decision dated October 25, 2019, the anti-graft court’s Seventh Division sentenced Quiñones to imprisonment for two years and one day and to pay a fine of P5,000. The court also barred him from holding public office.

    Associate Justice and Seventh Division chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta penned the ruling, with Associate Justices Zaldy V. Trespeses and Georgina D. Hidalgo concurring.

    Based on the charge sheet filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2014, the defendant was accused of requiring an official of the University of Saint Anthony (USANT) in Iriga City, Camarines Sur to cough up P2 million in cash “in exchange for his intervention in securing a reversal of his decision” with the National Labor Relations Commission.

    The alleged solicitation happened inside the defendant’s office at the NLRC Branch No. V in Naga City, Camarines Sur.

    Before the demand for grease money, Quiñones had ruled against the school in connection to a labor case filed by several employees over alleged illegal dismissal. The case was eventually thrown out by the NLRC on review.

    USANT president Santiago Ortega, principal witness for the prosecution, testified that Quiñones asked him for the P2 million in the presence of school security officer Noberto Nuñez, who goes with him as an escort because of his advanced age.

    Nuñez, in his turn at the witness stand, corroborated Ortega’s statement, saying he saw the defendant slip a piece of paper to the school official which turned out to contain the name of another labor lawyer who was supposed to handle the appeal for USANT.

    In his defense, Quiñones claimed Ortega assaulted him and threatened him with a gun. He also denied that he solicited cash from USANT.

    In finding the accused guilty, the court swept aside his contention noting that Quiñones’ complaint about the alleged assault was dismissed by the Naga City Prosecution Office for lack of probable cause.

    “The Supreme Court has time and again ruled that denial is a weak defense which cannot prevail over positive identifications by the prosecution witness,” the Sandiganbayan said.