Ex-Tayabas City mayor convicted of graft for hiring private lawyer

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan found 6 former local officials of Tayabas City in Quezon province guilty of two counts of graft over the anomalous hiring of a private lawyer in 2013.

In its decision, the anti-graft court convicted former mayor Faustino Silang, as well as Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) members Venerando Rea, Rex Abadilla, Marfeo Jacela, Abelardo Abrigo, and Macario Reyes, for violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The 6 former officials were sentenced to 6 to 10 years of imprisonment for each count of graft and perpetually banned from holding government positions.

The court found them liable for approving a resolution authorizing the hiring of a private lawyer despite a warning from the Commission on Audit.

The Sandiganbayan said that the local government should have appointed a city legal officer instead of getting a private lawyer, based on the Local Government Code (LGC).

It dismissed the defendants' claim that the position was left vacant due to lack of applicants.

"They knowingly and intentionally granted privilege in favor of a person not qualified and specifically barred by the LGC to represent the city," the court said. "It can be concluded that their acts, taken collectively, satisfactorily establish the existence of conspiracy among them."

Former vice mayor Luzviminda Cauda, meanwhile, was acquitted due to lack of evidence that she was involved in the drafting and approval of the resolution. – Rappler.com