Bohol mayor cleared of graft
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - September 12, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has acquitted Mayor Leon Calipusan of Loboc, Bohol of graft in connection with the alleged illegal takeover of a private property in 2010.

In a 59-page decision promulgated on Sept. 6 and released yesterday, the anti-graft court’s special third division said the prosecution panel of the Office of the Ombudsman failed to present sufficient evidence to prove Calipusan’s guilt.

The case stemmed from the municipal government’s takeover of an 8, 645-square-meter-lot in Barangay Gotozon owned by the heirs of a certain Epitacio Tanzo.

The ombudsman said Calipusan approved the takeover of the property to operate a zipline without the knowledge and consent of Tanzo’s heirs. It said the takeover caused undue injury to Tanzo’s heirs amounting to P475,475, which is equivalent to the lot’s zonal value.

Graft probers said Calipusan extended unwarranted benefit to the municipal government and private contractor Edwin Sacdalan worth P1.382 million, representing the income generated for the joint venture operation from May 23 to Sept. 30, 2010.

However, the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution failed to establish that Calipusan acted with “manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence” or that his act caused undue injury or unwarranted benefit to any party.

The court said the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) approved the construction of a zipline in the lot through a resolution passed on March 10, 2010 as part of the municipal government’s eco-tourism program.

The joint venture agreement with Sacdalan was recommended by the municipal bids and awards committee and approved by the town council, it added.

The court said the prosecution failed to establish that Calipusan had prior knowlege of the claims of Tanzo’s heirs over the property. Upon learning of the claims, the mayor sent a letter to the heirs offering to buy the property at P20 per square meter.

 “It... was not a personal business venture of the accused with Sacdalan...Any benefits received by the municipality of Loboc... and Edwin Sacdalan from the proceeds of the operation... bore the imprimatur of the SB of Loboc,” the court said.

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