Ex-Samar mayor gets 10 years for illegal lot purchase
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - November 17, 2019 - 12:00am

WESTERN SAMAR, Philippines — Former mayor Alejandro Abarratigue of Hinabangan, Western Samar is facing up to 10 years in prison over the unauthorized purchase of a lot when he was mayor in 2008.

In a 29-page decision promulgated on Nov. 8, the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division said Abarratigue, former municipal treasurer Raul Tapia and former administrative officer Analiza Bagro were found guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The provision prohibits public officials from giving unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference to a private party or from causing any party, including the government, undue injury.

The three former officials were also perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2017, the case stemmed from the municipal government’s purchase of a lot worth P500,000 from a certain Ofelia Abarracoso for the supposed expansion of the municipal cemetery.

The court said the lot was purchased without the approval of the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) in violation of Section 22 (c) of the Local Government Code.

“There is a positive duty on his part to secure the authority of the SB in purchasing the... lot. His act of disregarding such duty can be characterized as tainted with gross inexcusable negligence,” the court ruling read.

The court found no merit in Abarratigue’s defense that the town council appropriated a budget for the expansion of the municipal cemetery.

“It simply approved the annual budget of Hinabangan, Samar for the year 2008. The... annual budget did not even provide for the purchase of a lot. It merely allocated for the expansion of municipal cemetery... The term expansion cannot be interpreted to be synonymous with purchase,” the court said.

The Sandiganbayan said a town council resolution passed on Dec. 21, 2007 only enacted the municipality’s budget for 2008 amounting to P44.689 million.

“The local government can expand the municipal cemetery without necessarily resorting to the purchase of a lot,” the court added.

The third division said  Tapia certified in the disbursement voucher the availability of funds for the lot purchase, which paved way for the release of a check amounting to P500,000.

“Bagro’s participation in receiving and encashing the check on behalf of Abarracoso consummated the purchase of the subject lot without authority of the Sangguniang Bayan,” the court said.

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