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Nation

Batangas town mayor acquitted of graft

Janvic Mateo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Mayor Cristeta Reyes of Malvar, Batangas has been cleared of the graft charges filed against her in connection with the municipal government’s purchase of a property owned by her children.

In a 36-page decision dated Sept. 23, the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division acquitted Reyes along with her co-accused Yolanda Cabiscuelas and Jeanette Fruelda, former municipal treasurer and budget officer, respectively.

The case stemmed from the purchase of a 5,000-square-meter property worth P6.65 million in 2009.

The prosecution alleged that Reyes, who was also the mayor at the time, Cabiscuelas and Fruelda committed violations when the payment was released prior to the execution of the deed of sale conveying the property to the municipal government.

While the court found that the three committed “gross inexcusable negligence” when they approved the release of the payment without complete documentation, it said the prosecution failed to establish that the transaction caused undue injury or gave unwarranted benefit to any party.

“The court finds no legal basis as to the alleged damage caused to the government,” the ruling penned by Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna read.

The court noted that while P6.65 million was paid to Reyes’ children, the title of the property was eventually transferred to the municipal government of Malvar.

It said the relationship of Reyes to the landowners does not automatically translate to having financial interests.

“The registered owners did not plan on selling a portion of their property to the municipality of Malvar, and accused Reyes initially refused to intervene in the transaction,” the court said.

”The selection and eventual acquisition of the subject property resulted from the initiative to construct a national high school in Barangay Santiago,” it added.

GRAFT

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