By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan First Division has cleared Atty. Carmelita P. Yadao-Sison, officer-in-charge for the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Office of the Director IV of her six breach of conduct charges due to her reportedly anomalous Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
Yadao-Sison was initially accused of violating Section 8(a) of R.A. 6713, also known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
From April 30, 2006, to the next five years, when she was still the Director III for CHED, Yadao-Sison failed to declare the business interest of her husband, Atty. Roberto M. Sison, in the law firm Roberto M. Sison and Partners.
R.A. No. 6713 requires all public officials and employees to declare under oath their assets, liabilities, net worth, business interest and financial connections including those of their spouse and of unmarried children under 18 years of age living in their households.
During the trial, Yadao-Sison explained to the court that she did not indicate her husband’s business interest in her SALNs simply because the law firm, Roberto M. Sison and Partners, was never organized, incorporated or registered under Philippine law. She added it was “illogical” for her or her husband to have a business interest in what she believed to be a non-existent law firm.
For its part, the anti-graft court was satisfied with her explanation. “The contract of partnership or the articles of partnership would have been the best evidence. Unfortunately for the prosecution, none was, and can be, presented in this case, because the alleged partnership was, in fact, never formally organized,” the decision stated.
Even if Yadao-Sison was wrong about the interpretation of her husband’s business interest, the anti-graft court said it would just equate to “a mere error of judgment” and is “not tantamount to an unethical aberration that would make her criminally liable.”
The court ordered that the P60,000 cash bond she posted for her provisional liberty be released, and the hold departure order against her be set aside.
The 37-page decision was written by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg with the concurrence of Chairperson Efren De La Cruz and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.