THE Sandiganbayan has convicted a former provincial assessor of Zambales of 37 counts of graft for causing the issuance of 37 tax declarations to persons who are not the real owners of a 19.69-hectare property in Subic, Zambales.
Roberto R. Corpus was sentenced to six years and one month for each case or a total of 225 years.
However, under Article 70 of the Revised Penal Code, he will serve only a maximum period of 40 years.
Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero penned the 79-page decision that found Corpus guilty of disregarding existing rules when he issued tax declarations to various individuals who have no valid claims to the property.
Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Karl B. Miranda concurred.
Case records showed Corpus issued the 37 tax declarations to persons who were not the registered owner of the Subic property, saying he was merely doing a ministerial duty and the tax declarations were only for taxation purposes.
He likewise admitted in court that he knew the land was owned by Rolando Young whose name appears on the Transfer Certificate of Title.
The court gave little credence to the defendant’s arguments that the tax declaration did not change ownership of the property and that he merely continued a system that was put in effect by his predecessors.
“Corpus’ misfeasance is anathema to the axiom: ‘Where a man is compelled to show cause by the law, it is necessary that the cause be just lawful.’ His distorted postulation makes a mockery of the torrens system of land registration,” the anti-graft court said.
Noting Corpus’ statement that he issued the tax declarations simply “for taxation purposes” or “just to collect money… regardless of what conflict might arise,” the court said:
“Inevitably, Corpus’ devil-may-care attitude, as well as the indiscriminate issuance of tax declarations, will, in all likelihood, spawn myriad land disputes among incensed tax declarants.”
Questioned by the Sandiganbayan justices, Corpus acknowledged that he processed tax declarations filed by different persons involving one and the same property even if he was aware that this will cause conflicts.
He said that when two claimants find out that they have been paying taxes on the same property, they can just sue each other in court or agree to a settlement.
As a public official, the Sandiganbayan said Corpus should have exercised utmost circumspection during his stewardship since the government will bear the brunt of the backlash from his “dysfunctional practice.”
“All things considered, the evidence points to the peremptory conclusion that the accused Corpus is primarily and directly responsible for the acts imputed against him. The Court finds, and so holds, that accused Corpus committed the offense charged,” the Sandiganbayan ruled.