Former Kalinga mayor, wife convicted of graft, bribery
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has convicted a former mayor of Tabuk, Kalinga, and his wife of graft and direct bribery for extorting money from a private contractor.
In a 44-page decision dated July 19, the Sandiganbayan 7th Division said it found Camilo Lammawin Jr and wife Salud guilty of extorting P400,000 from Rodman Construction and Development Corporation (RCDC) on July 10, 2002; and another P120,000 on October 18, 2002.
The couple demanded P400,000 from RCDC for the release of a P2-million balance of an advance payment to the private contractor. Three months later, another P120,000 was demanded from RCDC in exchange for the payment of a P1.72-million balance for another project.
Bank officers of the Philippine National Bank and the Landbank, where RCDC deposited the amounts, confirmed during the trial that the money went to the bank accounts of the former mayor and his wife.
The defense presented witnesses to testify that the cash deposits were payments for money earlier loaned by the mayor to RCDC to augment its operating funds.
But the Sandiganbayan pointed out that no evidence was presented to support the argument of the supposed loan agreement.
“These borrowings, without any evidence to prove their existence, are therefore mere allegations. It is basic in the rule of evidence that bare allegations, unsubstantiated by evidence, are not equivalent to proof,” the court said.
According to the anti-graft court, it would also be a conflict of interest for the couple to shell out their own money to sustain RCDC's operations given that it has an existing contract with the city government.
The Sandiganbayan sentenced the couple to 16 years and 10 months to 34 years for two counts of graft and two counts of direct bribery, or 6 to 9 years for each count of graft, and 2 years and 4 months to 8 years for each count of direct bribery.
The court ordered the couple's perpetual disqualification from holding public office and that they pay fines of P1.2 million for the first bribery case, and P360,000 for the second case.
The July 19 ruling was penned by Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo, with concurrences of Associate Justices Ma Theresa Dolores Gomez Estoesta and Zaldy Trespeses. – Rappler.com