By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Special Seventh Division has decided to reverse its earlier graft conviction of former Bansalan Mayor Edwin Granada Reyes of Davao del Sur for issuing a Mayor’s Permit for the sale of firecrackers even though this was not allowed.
Reyes was earlier found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for the business permit he issued on December 14, 2009.
This allowed the sale of firecrackers in the Bansalan Public Market, but it was in conflict with Municipal Ordinance No. 357. While the ordinance did not prohibit the display and sale of firecrackers, it did regulate that firecrackers be displayed and sold only within the premises of Estrella Bridge through Lily Street – not the public market.
However, an accident took place on December 27, 2009 when the fireworks were ignited by a cigarette butt. This caused a roaring fire, which consumed Building No. 2 of the market, including nearby stalls.
The Sandiganbayan convicted Reyes because of this since he approved the permit that stated that the selling of firecrackers was to be allowed “at the public market, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.”
Reyes filed a motion for reconsideration after he was convicted.
He reasoned that the firecrackers were actually sold outside the market, and several witnesses could testify that it was done outside the premises of Buildings 1 and 2 of Bansalan Public Market – more specifically, on Via Crucis Street.
He added that there was no criminal intent on his part. In approving the Mayor’s Permit, Reyes said it was not his intent to give manifest partiality or unwarranted benefits to the firecracker vendors.
After reviewing his motion and the municipal ordinance, the anti-graft court decided to give him the benefit of the doubt.
“As the records show, the Mayor’s Permit issued by the accused seemingly allowed the firecracker vendor to sell their wares ‘at Public Market, Bansalan, Davao del Sur.’ The uncontested reality, however, remains that the accused apparently only allowed said vendors in selling firecrackers outside thereof,” the resolution read.
To be precise, the court said the sale was made at a distance of 10 to 12 meters from the public market building. The only way for the criminal charge to thrive is if the vendors sold their goods within the premises of Bansalan Public Market.
“Since the Information did not include an allegation why the selling was allowed at an area not designated by the ordinance, which is deemed a violation thereof, no criminal liability can be imputed at this point,” the court ruled.
At the same time, no manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence could be attributable to the accused. “Hence, a departure from the court’s previous legal stand is in order, the acquittal of the accused being warranted under the circumstances,” it added.
The 16-page resolution was penned by Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta with the concurrence of Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Bayani Jacinto.