By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has affirmed its decision convicting former Hinabangan Mayor Alejandro Abarratigue of Western Samar and two others of their graft charge involving the irregular purchase of land in 2008.
Abarratigue was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act alongside Municipal Treasurer Raul Roberto Tapia and Administrative Officer II Analiza Mabonga Bagro.
Their graft charge stemmed from the P500,000 purchase of Lot 387-E from the heirs of Isidro A. Abarracoso on Aug. 12, 2008 without authority from the Sangguniang Bayan of Hinabangan.
Abarratigue filed his motion for reconsideration first, and Tapia and Bagro later followed with a supplemental motion for reconsideration.
Abarratigue argued that the prosecution failed to prove all the elements of the crime charged, and there is no evidence that would prove the existence of undue injury against the municipal government.
Even assuming that the Sangguniang Bayan of Hinabangan did not issue prior authorization for him to enter into a contract, Abarratigue said that the municipality still got to own a lot and enjoyed benefits from it, having built an evacuation center there.
“Hence, the defect of the alleged lack of prior authorization had been cured,” he said.
Meanwhile, Tapia said that he acted in good faith when he signed the certification for the availability of funds. Bagro claimed that she is not a conspirator since her participation was after the fact when the transaction was already consummated.
However, the anti-graft court denied all of their motions. “The Court is not persuaded,” the resolution read. “The issue at hand is whether the purchase of the lot was authorized and not whether the expansion of the municipal cemetery may be interpreted to involve the purchase of a lot.”
The court further explained that the allocation in the annual budget for the expansion of the municipal cemetery does not necessarily give the accused the authority to enter into a contract to purchase the subject lot since the expansion of the cemetery can be made without purchasing the lot.
The resolution further stated that the arguments of Tapia and Bagro failed to convince. The court said Tapia cannot cling to good faith since he knew that the allocation in the annual budget was merely for the expansion of the municipal cemetery, and yet the purpose for the disbursement of funds as indicated in the disbursement voucher was for the transfer of ownership of the subject property.
As for Bagro, her act in receiving and encashing the check in behalf of Ofelia Abarrasco consummated the transaction of purchasing the lot. “Her act therefore is considered part of the conspiracy and cannot be separated from the acts of the other accused,” the resolution read.
The five-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno with the concurrences of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.