Ex-Tudela mayor gets 12-18 yrs in jail for malversation
The Sandiganbayan has convicted the former mayor of Tudela, Cebu, of malversation for failing to account for 350 bags of cement that should have been delivered to the municipality in June 2004.
In a decision dated Aug. 10, the court’s Seventh Division sentenced former Tudela mayor Rogelio Baquerfo Sr. to imprisonment of 12 to 18 years and eight months.
Baquerfo was also ordered to pay a fine of P57,750 with interest of six percent per annum from the finality of the decision. The penalty also perpetually disqualified him from holding any public office.
Baquerfo denied that he had custody of the bags of cement worth P339,233.33 and bought with municipal funds.
However, this went contrary to his own admission during a clarificatory hearing when the case was still under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.
A transcript of the Ombudsman hearing showed he answered in the affirmative when asked if the cement was delivered to his residence.
It also showed he took the municipality’s cement as replacement for the cement he and his wife earlier lent to for a beautification project in 2003.
The court noted that Baquerfo merely recanted the admission and did not explain why he issued it at the Ombudsman stage.
“Except for his bare denial of custody of the subject public property, no other evidence was offered by accused to rebut the evidence presented by the prosecution,” the decision read.
The court also noted that Baquerfo’s successor, Demetrio Granada, also demanded the return of the cement bags, to no avail.
Citing Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, the Sandiganbayan said the failure to comply with such demands “shall be prima facie evidence that he has put such missing funds or property to personal use.”
As an epilogue, the court said Baquerfo’s intention to simply replace the loaned cement was “not enough justification to brush aside the processes and/or existing rules when it comes to handling public property.”
Associate Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses penned the resolution, which was concurred by Associate Justices Alexander G. Gesmundo and Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta.
Incumbent Tudela Mayor Erwin Yu welcomed the decision of the Sandiganbayan, saying it was but proper for his predecessor to answer for any infraction against the law.
“This case was filed in 2007 and even though justice was delayed, at least it was not denied,” he told reporters at the Capitol yesterday.
Baquerfo lost to Yu during the 2010 elections./
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