Sandiganbayan

Sandiganbayan affirms conviction of ex-Cabanatuan councilor over cell site extortion

Rappler

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The case stems from a complaint filed by a company that was told to hand over under-the-table payments

The Sandiganbayan denied the motion for reconsideration filed by a former Cabanatuan City councilor found guilty of extorting P300,000 in exchange for a permit to build cell sites for a telecommunications giant.

In a resolution dated October 25 and released on Friday, November 5, the 6th Division of the anti-graft court affirmed the conviction of Angelito Saclolo Jr.

The court said the prosecution’s evidence clearly established that Saclolo and then-Sangguniang Panlungsod secretary Alfredo Ortaleza “acted in conspiracy” when they extorted P300,000 from Richworld Aire and Technologies Corporation.

The two were convicted in October 2020 of direct bribery and violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Saclolo, in his appeal, claimed that the prosecution failed to establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt and that conspiracy between him and Ortaleza was not proven. Ortaleza died in December 2020.

The Sandiganbayan, however, said that the “concerted individual and collective acts” of Saclolo and Ortaleza showed “conspiracy and common intent towards the accomplishment of the same unlawful objective.”

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by Richworld, which had applied for a permit in January 2013 to erect Globe Telecom cell sites in two barangays in Cabanatuan City in Nueva Ecija.

According to witnesses, Richworld representatives were informed that there would be under-the-table payments necessary, which amounted to P220,000 per tower and would be distributed among city officials.

The amount was eventually negotiated down to P150,000 per tower, and handed over to Ortaleza in April 2013. Sangguniang Panlungsod members then signed the resolution green-lighting the construction of cell site towers nine days later.

The offices of Ortaleza and Saclolo ignored demand letters from Richworld, the company said. – Rappler.com