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SC upholds conviction of former Bohol town mayor

By: Leo Udtohan - Inquirer Visayas | October 10,2023 - 06:05 AM

The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the conviction of former Bohol Corella town mayor and now incumbent councilor Vito Beltran Rapal over his unliquidated cash advances and for pocketing money intended for tarsier preservation

TAGBILARAN CITY — The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the conviction of former Corella town mayor in Bohol and now incumbent councilor Vito Beltran Rapal over his unliquidated cash advances and for pocketing money intended for tarsier preservation.

In a 15-page decision promulgated on Aug. 16, 2023 but uploaded on the Supreme Court website on Sept. 28, the high court’s first division reaffirmed the decision of Sandiganbayan’s 4th division that found Rapal guilty of four counts of graft, estafa and failure to render accounts.

Rapal was sentenced to up to 22 years in prison. He was also ordered perpetually disqualified from holding public office and to pay the Corella municipal government P1,088,252.20 and P92,239.70 which is equivalent to the amount involved in the cases.

The criminal cases arose from incidents which occurred during Rapal’s incumbency as mayor of Corella town.

Rapal used the proceeds of the municipality from its 40 percent revenue share in its joint undertaking with the Philippine Tarsier Foundation, Inc. (PTFI), for the operation of the Philippine Tarsier and Wildlife Sanctuary from October 25, 2008 to June 15, 2009 amounting P92,239.70.

The court cited the testimonies of former mayor’s office secretary Celerina Varquez and municipal tourism officer Maria Asuncion Pandan that they received the Tarsier Funds from PTFI and gave the whole amount to Rapal, following the latter’s instructions instead of remitting the amount to the municipal treasurer’s office.

In his defense, Rapal denied having received the Tarsier Funds. He attacked the credibility of witnesses Varquez and Pandan, stressing that they had motive to ascribe blame on him in order to evade liability for the missing funds themselves.

Rapal was also found guilty of failing to account for P1,088,252.20 worth of cash advances from a budget intended for the town’s intelligence and confidential, travel and miscellaneous fund and other expenses.

The court agreed with the Sandiganbayan that the government suffered undue injury from Rapal’s failure to liquidate or settle the amount of P1,088,252.20 in public funds.

Rapal argued that he should not be penalized without proof and it could be said with certainty that the government suffered undue injury from the simple fact that the cash advances remained unliquidated, there being no proof that the said amounts were used for illegitimate purposes.

Rapal was vice mayor from 2000 to 2010. He was elected mayor of Corella from 2010 to 2013.

He became councilor in the May 2022 elections.


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TAGS: bohol, Corella, graft, mayor, Supreme Court

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