MANILA, Philippines – Retired army general Jose Ramiscal Jr was again convicted of corruption, as the Sandiganbayan sentenced him to 216 years in prison for 24 counts of graft and falsification of documents.
Also convicted of the same charges and with the same sentence is lawyer Nilo Flaviano.
"This Court has found conspiracy among accused Ramiscal, accused Pabalan, and accused Flaviano in falsifying the unilateral Deeds of Absolute Sale for the purpose of causing undue injury to the government in the amount of unpaid taxes, and thus finds no basis in accused Flaviano's assertion that such conspiracy has not been duly proven by the Prosecution," reads the decision of the Sandiganbayan 7th Division promulgated last Friday, April 13.
Wilfredo Pabalan was the project director, but he had died before the decision was rendered. The Sandiganbayan did not pronounce judgment for him on account of his death.
Ramiscal was the president of the now defunct Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement and Separation Benefits System (AFP-RSBS). In 1997, he bought 12 lots in General Santos City which were supposed to be developed for a housing project and a marina complex.
The lots were sold to the AFP-RSBS by members of the Guaybar family, represented by Flaviano.
The charges state that Ramiscal and Flaviano falsified a deed of sale showing a lower amount in order to pay lower capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax.
For example, one of the 12 lots was sold at P10,500 per square meter or a total of P10.489 million. However, Ramiscal and Flaviano falsified a deed of sale that states it was sold for only P3,000 per square meter or a total of P2.997 million. For that transaction, the government lost P292,207 due to the underpayment of taxes.
All in all, P3.506 million in taxes were not paid to the government.
Ramiscal argued that the Sandiganbayan has no jurisdiction over him because he is already retired, and therefore acting in a private capacity as AFP-RSBS president.
But citing a Supreme Court (SC) ruling, the Sandiganbayan said the AFP-RSBS has "public character and operations," and that public funds were used to buy the lands.
The actual sellers, the Guaybar family, were acquitted because the court said their lawyer Flaviano was the one liable.
"Since it was his signatures which all appeared in the bilateral and unilateral deeds of sale, as far as Lots X-1 and X-5 are concerned, the responsibility began and ended with him alone. Criminal liability did not extend to the vendors," said the Sandiganbayan.
The ruling was penned by division chairperson Associate Justice Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and concurred with by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto.