20 July 2011

Two Verdicts, Six Guilty of Corruption

PNoy and AFP
Two important decisions were handed out on 14 June 2011 that could signal a decisive campaign against the corrupt and abusive officials in the Government. For the unsatisfied critic, it is not enough, but what is enough to someone could be a good start for the impatient taxpayer.

In less than 24-hours the courts handed out two guilty verdicts against the powerful and moneyed accused individuals. First was decision to punish a former official of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) with an imprisonment of between six and eight years after being found guilty of falsifying documents for missing government equipment and vehicles.

Lawyer Hedy Esmade-Diaz, a former SBMA corporate secretary, was found "guilty beyond reasonable doubt" by an Olongapo City Regional Trial Court for violation of Art. 141, par. 4 of the Revised Penal Code.

Later, four former officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines-Retirement Separation and Benefit Systems (AFP-RSBS) were found guilty of graft in connection with the purchase of an overpriced land property in Batangas in 1997.

The Sandiganbayan's Fourth Division found retired Brig. Gen. Jose Servando Ramiscal Jr., lawyer Meinrado Enrique Bello, lawyer Manuel Se Satuito, and Capt. Perfecto Quilicot guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The case of Esmade-Diaz stemmed from an inventory of the properties of the SBMA that showed a number of missing equipment and vehicles. Those items were later found to have been transferred to the city government of Olongapo City through a Joint Redevelopment and Administration Agreement (JRAA) and "Memorandum of Agreement" (MOA).

The defense of Esmade-Diaz tried to show that the MOA to transfer the equipment and vehicles was "ratified, confirmed and approved" in a meeting on 6 May 1998. Unfortunately for them, a check in the agenda of that particular meeting showed no evidence that the MOA was indeed discussed.

In the second case, the four AFP-RSBS personnel were responsible for the purchase of a 7,582 square-meter property in Tanauan for PhP 1.5 million on 23 April 1997. And guess what? That was a bloated price. The actual price of the property was only PhP 227,460!

The four were sentenced to imprisonment between six and 10 years, and were ordered to jointly pay the AFP-RSBS PhP 1,304,104 equivalent to the supposed overprice. Ramiscal was further sentenced to 6-10 years after he was separately found guilty of estafa through falsification of public documents. Ramiscal, as chief of the AFP-RSBS, signed the second Deed of Sale bearing the bigger amount.

Now, these are not landmark decisions that law books will be talking about for years. It was the first layer of the court system that handed down the verdict. There are still avenues that the defendants can avail to emancipate themselves. However, it is still worth noting that President Aquino’s administration is starting on the right foot. Let us all follow this case and make sure that no plea agreement is made like what the prosecutors did in the case against General Garcia.