By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Occidental Mindoro Rep. Jose Villarosa has been convicted of 12 counts of technical malversation and cleared of 12 counts of graft by the Sandiganbayan in relation to the misappropriation of the municipality’s P2.92 million tobacco excise tax.
Villarosa faced the sentence alongside former San Jose municipal accountant Pablo Alvaro and treasurer Carlito Cajayon. They were sentenced to pay a fine equivalent to 25 percent of the public funds they misapplied, which totalled to P730,185. No jail term was imposed.
The anti-graft court’s Sixth Division found them guilty for using the municipality’s tobacco excise tax funds for purposes not in connection with the provisions of R.A. 8240. At the time the crimes were committed, Villarosa was still mayor of San Jose.
The said law provides that the tobacco excise tax funds should go to cooperative projects that will enhance the income and productivity of farmers, livelihood projects that would develop alternative farming system, or agro-industrial projects that will enable tobacco farmers to be involved in the management of cigarette manufacturing.
However, Villarosa and the others used the money instead to purchase 10 multi-cabs, mixed gravel and sand for the maintenance of barangay roads, medicine reimbursements, Christmas lights, transportation reimbursements, meals and snacks for barangay officials, rental fees of a service vehicle, and fuel and lubricants, among other things.
The court found that the prosecution proved all the elements of the crime of Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code, also known as technical malversation.
On the other hand, they were cleared of their graft charges because the prosecution failed to prove how their actions caused undue injury to the government and the intended farmer beneficiaries.
“It does not appear that the government suffered any injury, considering that the tobacco excise tax funds were used for public purposes, albeit not in accordance with Section 8 of R.A. 8240,” the decision read.
The 37-page decision was penned by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.
Meanwhile, Villarosa was already found guilty by the Sandiganbayan First Division for nine counts of graft in 2016 and has been sentenced to a total of 90 years imprisonment in connection with the anomalous issuance of extraction permits to different individuals and companies.
Villarosa was convicted of nine counts in violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for violating the provisions of Section 138 of R.A. 7160.
The said Local Government Code states that only governors are allowed to issue extraction permits within their “respective territorial jurisdiction and to levy and collect taxes therefrom.”
But Villarosa violated the law when he allowed private quarry companies to take advantage of the privilege to extract quarry resources without legal authority from the Occidental Mindoro provincial governor’s office from December 2010 to June 2011.