By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Former Carmen Mayor Manuel del Rosario Molina and Municipal Treasurer Fulgencio Peña have been convicted by the Sandiganbayan due to the felonious receipt of P110,700 in exchange for municipal business permits back in 2009.
Del Rosario and Peña were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt for violating Article 213, paragraph (2), sub-paragraph (a) of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise known as Illegal Exaction.
They were sentenced to each pay a fine of P10,000.
Their charge stemmed from the demand they made as payment from every applicant of a municipal business permit or a business plate fee. They asked for P300 from each applicant or a total of P110,700 back in February 2009.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court said that the evidence of the prosecution sufficiently established the guilt of the accused.
Molina tried to extinguish himself from any liability by stressing that he is not an official entrusted with collection, so he pointed his finger at Peña, who is responsible for the local revenue collection.
However, the court ruled that he is still “the invisible hand behind the collection of the additional charge from business permit applicants.” At the same time, the court reminded him that the mayor should “ensure that all taxes and other revenues of the municipality are collected,” as per Section 444, (b),(3),(iii) of the Local Government Code.
“To that end, therefore, his role in such pecuniary activity of the municipality elevates to a legal certainty,” the decision stated.
Even if Molina’s theory is correct, the court said it remains “unconvinced” that his participation falls outside the scope of the crime. The prosecution managed to show the certified true copy of more than 420 official receipts reflecting the amount of P300 for the business plate, which was made during collection.
At the same time, Molina said in his own counter-affidavit that there was an excess amount collected, so they refunded it. He claimed that no single centavo was lost or illegally used for personal interest, but the court said “the act of demanding the unauthorized amount” has already been consummated.
The 22-page decision was written by Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. with the concurrence of Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Lorifel Pahimna.