Makati RTC judge convicted of graft, malversation

DAPITAN CITY - A Makati regional trial court judge was convicted for a crime he committed 12 years ago when he was mayor of Dapitan City in Mindanao. 

Judge Joseph Cedrick Ruiz of Makati RTC Branch 61 was convicted of graft and malversation for pocketing P950,000 of the city's  confidential intelligence fund (CIF) shortly before his term as Dapitan mayor ended in 2001.

In a 27-page decision penned by Associate Justice Efren De la Cruz, the Sandiganbayan convicted Ruiz and sentenced him to a jail term of 6 to 8 years for graft and 12 to 18 years for malversation of public funds. 

Associate Justices Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and Rafael R. Lagos concurred with the decision. 

Aside from imprisonment, the former mayor was also slapped with perpetual disqualification from holding public office and a fine of P950,000. It is equivalent to the amount malversed.

Ruiz earlier told the media in Dipolog: "I am not imprisoned yet. I am just on leave, but I will contest the decision up to the Supreme Court because it was politically motivated."

Ruiz visibly campaigned for defeated Liberal Party mayoral candidate Agapito Cardino. He claimed that Romeo Jalosjos - the kingpin of the Jalosjos-Yebes group - announced it during the Nationalista Party (NP)-United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) miting de avance on May 3.

But what happened in 2001? Ruiz lost his mayoral bid to Rodolfo Carreon, the husband of Jalosjos's sister Cecilia. Two days after Rodolfo Carreon was proclaimed the winner, Ruiz supposedly asked Dapitan Police Chief SPO4 Pepe Nortal to come up with a peace and order campaign that would have a budget of P1 million.

Nortal eventually got the cash advance and then supposedly handed to Ruiz P1 million in four bundles of P250,000 each. Ruiz supposedly gave Nortal P50,000.

"Nortal testified that Ruiz could not make the cash advance himself as he had not liquidated his previous cash releases. Of the amount, P50,000 was handed to Nortal for the PNP expenses," reads the press release of the Office of the Ombudsman.

When Carreon took over as new mayor, Nortal became the subject of an investigation by the city council that filed a formal complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Nortal eventually filed a case against Ruiz and he turned into a state witness against the former mayor.

Ruiz maintained that Nortal was a political supporter of the Jalosjoses. But the Sandiganbayan was not convinced.

"The Court is convinced that accused Ruiz instigated Nortal to cash advance P1,000,000 from the CIF, and his action caused undue injury to the government," the Sandiganbayan said in its decision. The court said that the timing of the cash advance was suspect. 

Nortal passed away in 2012. -