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MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan recently convicted former Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn of malversation of public property over his failure to surrender 14 firearms at the end of his term in 2013, dismissing his defense that these were eventually returned to the police four years later.
On June 30, the Sandiganbayan Third Division sentenced Hagedorn to two to seven years of imprisonment and fined him P490,000. The anti-graft court’s ruling perpetually disqualifies him from holding public office.
Hagedorn, currently the representative of Palawan’s 3rd District, said he will appeal the decision with the Supreme Court.
The malversation case stemmed from a 2016 complaint filed by Mayor Lucio Bayron, who alleged that Hagedorn, during his tenure as city mayor, received 20 units of refurbished Armalite rifles but only returned 6 of them by the end of his term in 2013.
Hagedorn, however, in his defense said that the subject firearms were already returned to the Philippine National Police (PNP) Puerto Princesa City. Based on the records submitted to Sandiganbayan, the subject firearms were returned on March 20, 2017, September 5, 2017, and September 10, 2017.
The Sandiganbayan, however, said that “payment of the property malversed after the commission of the crime does not extinguish the criminal liability of the responsible public officer.”
In its ruling, the anti-graft court cited the Supreme Court’s decision which states that “an accountable public officer may be criminally liable for malversation of public property when he fails to return or produce the same upon demand, although after the filing of the information and during the trial he returned the property to the government.”
In a press briefing in Puerto Princesa on Saturday, July 1, Hagedorn said that when Bayron first inquired with the local PNP about the firearms in a letter in 2017, then city police director P/Col. Sergio Vivar supposedly replied that the firearms were properties of the city police, and couldn’t be turned over to the city government.
On Monday, July 3, P/Lt. Col. Joseph Dela Cruz, head of the Puerto Princesa City Police Office Investigation and Detection Management Unit, told the local media, “Based on our records, all firearms are accounted for,” the Palawan Times reported.
“Dela Cruz said they would issue a certification and copy of the records of the firearms turned over to the PPCPO if Hagedorn asks,” the report added.
In his response affidavit, Hagedorn also contended that he did not use the firearms for his own benefit. He said that he was actively attempting to retrieve the weapons from his former security personnel, while the other units were already declared missing.
The Sandiganbayan also found that one of the subject firearms remains unaccounted for while the serial numbers of nine firearms were tampered.
Following the Sandiganbayan’s decision, Hagedorn said he would appeal to the Supreme Court to clear his name.
“I firmly believe that the evidence will eventually vindicate me,” Hagedorn said in a statement. – Rappler.com