Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan
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Lanao Norte mayor gets 10 years for grave coercion
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - May 17, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Mayor Rommel Arnado of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte has been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison for evicting members of a family from their homes in 2013.

In a 34-page decision promulgated on April 26 and obtained by reporters on Wednesday, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division said Arnado was found guilty of three counts of grave coercion under Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code.

The anti-graft court said the Office of the Ombudsman’s prosecution team established that Arnado prevented the aggrieved parties from staying in their property even though they showed a certificate of land title.

The eviction was carried out without a court order and through threat or intimidation, it added.

 “The accused... admitted during the pre-trial conference his participation in the removal of complainants’ shelters... depriving them peaceful settlement in the disputed properties,” the ruling read.

The court had earlier ordered the cases filed against Arnado’s co-accused Rey Camanian, a security officer of the Civil Security Unit of the Kauswagan police, and Lauro Diputado, a casual employee, to be archived as they remain at large.

Based on the charge sheets, Camanian and Diputado and seven John Does evicted Ibra, Osama and  Farhana, all surnamed Sambuat, and their relatives from their houses in Barangay Tacub upon the orders of Arnado.

The Sambuat family was claiming ownership of the land where their houses were built amid an ownership claim by business partners Henry Dy, Voltaire Rovira and Sotero Trinidad.

The ombudsman said that aside from forcibly driving away the Sambuats from their land, Camanian, Diputado and their cohorts demolished the houses of the complainants and took their material possessions.

Arnado won in his reelection bid. He garnered 7,854 votes while his rival Nestor Ortiz Sr. got only 2,253 votes.

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