Spouses Jose and Lourdes Bihag, Mayor Teresa Alegado, Susana Cantago, and Nelia Alvarez, all residents of Barangay Danlag, Consolacion, claimed their farm tools were allegedly confiscated and that they were threatened to be imprisoned if they refused to stop tilling their lands.
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Consolacion ex-mayor cleared of graft charge
Mylen P. Manto (The Freeman) - February 25, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has cleared Consolacion, Cebu former mayor Avelino Gungob, Sr. of the anti-graft and grave coercion cases filed against him for allegedly entering into private properties and dumping materials there.

Spouses Jose and Lourdes Bihag, Mayor Teresa Alegado, Susana Cantago, and Nelia Alvarez, all residents of Barangay Danlag, Consolacion, claimed their farm tools were allegedly confiscated and that they were threatened to be imprisoned if they refused to stop tilling their lands.

Also, earth materials were allegedly dumped into their lands which damage their corn that were already ready for harvest. This was despite the fact that the expropriation case the municipality of Consolacion has filed reportedly was already dismissed.

Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac, however, acquitted Gungob for failure of the prosecution to prove its case.

"Jurisprudence holds that the prosecution must rely on the strength of its own evidence; the burden of proof is never on the accused to disprove the facts necessary to establish the crime charged. The prosecution must discharge the burden to prove the guilt beyond reasonable doubt," read the decision.

Teresita’s son, Allary Alegado, who stood as one of the prosecution's witnesses, alleged that on August 27, 2009 at around 9 a.m., one of their farm workers came to their house and informed him that their farm, planted with corn, was already filled with lime soil and other filling materials in connection with the Mountain Highway Project that Gungob is spearheading.

In 2004, the Sangguniang Bayan passed a resolution for the implementation of the project aimed to open and link more farm-to-market roads in Barangays Cansaga, Tilhaong, Danlag, Garing, Panas, and Lanipga.

It was in 2006 that Gungob was given full authority to initiate the expropriation and acquisition proceedings of the land affected by the project through a resolution.

Allary added Gungob was persistent in pursuing the project despite the dismissal of the expropriation case of the affected lands filed before a trial court in Mandaue City.

Aside from their land, the lots owned by the Bihag couple were also filled with limestone.

Because he initially refused to remove the barrier erected in their property, they were allegedly threatened by Gungob to put them to jail. It was Gungob's men who removed the barrier.

Allary's testimonies were corroborated by other prosecution witnesses.

Gungob alleged during the implementation of the project, he received information on August 26, 2009 that some people were obstructing the ongoing construction by putting up fences along the path where the project was supposed to pass.

When he learned about it, he immediately went to the area. Contrary to the allegations, he never employed violence, intimidation, and threat.

With the foregoing, the Sandiganbayan ruled that Allary was silent if he went to the project site on August 26, 2009, the date of the incident subject to the instant charges. What he testified to pertained to an event which allegedly took place on August 27, 2009.

"The apparent inconsistencies in the testimonies of these material witnesses create reasonable doubt as to truthfulness of their allegations, more so in light of the testimonies of accused's witnesses, Leonardo Capao,Jr. and Nicarter Yray, that no unusual incident took place at the project site on August 26, 2009," the decision read.

It cannot be denied that the said project was duly approved by the municipal council, the Sandiganbayan ruled, adding the project was legitimate and aimed at accelerating the economic activity in the town to improve the lives of its constituents.

Moreover, the prosecution alleged Gungob had no authority to enter into their properties because of the dismissal of the expropriation proceedings.

However, the Sandiganbayan found out that there was no evidence showing that the project encroached on the complainants' properties. (FREEMAN)

AVELINO GUNGOB
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