Sandiganbayan affirms graft conviction of Tayabas City exec

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    THE Sandiganbayan has junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Tayabas City Sangguniang Panlungsod member Marfeo Jacela challenging the validity of the February 14, 2020 decision that pronounced him guilty of two counts of graft together with several other city officials.

    In a resolution dated December 3, 2020, the anti-graft court’s Third Division upheld the ruling that sentenced Jacela to 12 to 20 years imprisonment in connection with the illegal hiring of a private lawyer in 2013 to represent the city government in court cases.

    The Sandiganbayan reiterated its stand that Jacela and his five co-accused, including former city mayor Faustino Silang, violated RA 7160 or the Local Government Code and caused undue injury to the government when they engaged the services of a private lawyer rather than filling up the position of City Legal Officer.

    It noted that the government code made it mandatory for a province, city or municipality to appoint a Provincial, City or Municipal Legal Officer. Likewise, it pointed out that the Commission on Audit had earlier cautioned the city government that the hiring of a private counsel was against the law.

    In his appeal, Jacela claimed their conviction acts as a collateral attack against the Sangguniang Panlungsod’s Resolution No. 13-87 which is prohibited by law and jurisprudence.

    He added that the Local Government Code does not penalize any official who authorizes the rendition of legal services to a local government unit, whether it involves compensation or not.

    In his ponencia, Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno pointed out that the accused raised nothing new in his motion for reconsideration.

    “The subject motion failed to raise a new material matter and the issues therein have already been considered by this Court. At any rate, the Court is not persuaded by the arguments raised by the accused,” the Sandiganbayan Third Division said.

    Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez also concurred with Moreno’s pronouncement that there is no conflict between the provisions of the Local Government Code and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.