Sandigan affirms Negros vice mayor’s graft conviction
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - January 19, 2020 - 12:00am

NEGROS OCCIDENTAL, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has upheld its ruling convicting Vice Mayor Oscar Montilla Jr. of Sipalay City, Negros Occidental of graft.

In a six-page resolution promulgated on Jan. 6, the anti-graft court’s fourth division said Montilla failed to offer any meritorious argument in his motion to reverse its Oct. 11, 2019 decision finding him guilty of violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 for defying an order of the Office of the Ombudsman to suspend five municipal employees when he was mayor in 2008.

The court sentenced Montilla to up to eight years in prison and ordered his perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In filing the case in 2017,  the Office of the Ombudsman said Montilla did not enforce the suspension of Fernando Balbin, Eva Sabusap, Evangeline Seneres, Noel Villanueva and Renato Manilla, who were found guilty of negligence in the performance of duty over the purchase of overpriced medicine.

The ombudsman ordered the suspension of the employees for three months.

In his appeal, Montilla said he ”relied in good faith” on the recommendation of city legal officer Elmer Balbin to postpone the implementation of the suspension order, noting that a motion for reconsideration was pending at the time.

Montilla said he did not receive a copy of the resolution of the ombudsman denying the appeal of the suspended employees.

The fourth division said  Montilla exhibited “gross inexcusable negligence” when he relied on the advice of Balbin.

The court said Montilla could not escape liability as records showed that he received letters from the ombudsman from 2005 to 2010 reminding him to implement the suspension order. 

“The manner by which Montilla chose to handle the implementation of the... suspension (order) reveals his utter indifference to the consequences of his actions,” the court said.

“The fact that Montilla eventually ordered the suspension of the Sipalay employees is inconsequential,” the court added.

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