Thursday, September 20, 2012

Ex-Bukidnon mayor gets 7-year jail term for graft

MANILA,Philippines - The Sandiganbayan has sentenced a former mayor of Valencia town in Bukidnon to a maximum of seven years in jail after he was found guilty of graft due to his refusal to comply with lawful orders issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC) in 2003. In a 44-page decision released yesterday, the anti-graft court’s First Division chaired by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz also slapped former mayor Jose Galario with the accessory penalty of perpetual disqualification from public office. Galario’s graft case stemmed from his issuance of office memoranda in 2001 which relieved and repeatedly transferred then city budget officer Ruth Piano to different positions. This prompted Piano to file constructive dismissal complaints before the CSC regional office in Cagayan de Oro City. Piano won her case against Galario, resulting in the issuance of a reinstatement order on May 5, 2003 which Galario initially heeded but reversed after only three months by issuing yet another office memorandum relieving Piano of her position as city budget officer. During the trial, Ombudsman lawyers led by Assistant Special Prosecutor 3 Paz Judith Boco-Mate, under the supervision of director Diosdado Calonge, were able to prove that Galario refused to follow the orders of the CSC regional office despite repeated demands. Galario was specifically found guilty of violating Section 3(f) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The provision penalizes acts of “neglecting or refusing, after due demand or request, without sufficient justification, to act within a reasonable time on any matter pending before him for the purpose of obtaining, directly or indirectly, from any person interested in the matter some pecuniary or material benefit or advantage, or for the purpose of favoring his own interest or giving undue advantage in favor of or discriminating against any other interested party.” In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan said Galario tried “to hide behind the excuse that he had sufficient reason to ignore” the CSC’s orders and Piano’s requests for reinstatement because the resolution ordering the reinstatement did not attain finality until May 17, 2004. “We disagree. It is clear from the previously quoted Civil Service Rules that a decision of the Commission attains finality upon the lapse of fifteen (15) days without the filing of an appeal with the Court of Appeals or a certiorari petition with the Supreme Court,” it said. Galario, it added, “cannot get off the hook simply by reinstating Piano and then later relieving her again or merely reinstating Piano without giving her the authority appurtenant to her position as City Budget Officer.” - By Michael Punongbayan