MANILA - A former Bohol provincial board member who was linked to the killing of his wife was acquitted by the Sandiganbayan 1st Division of graft in connection with a cockpit arena licensing controversy in 2008.
Niño Boniel was accused of favoring his relatives in the granting of the permit to operate a cockpit arena, supposedly causing damage and prejudice to the government and undue injury to a private complainant.
But in the decision of the court promulgated on June 21, 2019, the non-renewal of the business permit of private complainant Virginia Baruffol was premised on the fact that her Bien Unido Cockpit Arena (BUCA) was within 200 meters from three public buildings, which were all built after the construction of the arena in 1982.
The court noted that proximity to public buildings is a violation of the Cockfighting Law of 1974 or Presidential Decree No. 449.
"BUCA made no effort to relocate and insisted, as advised by then former mayors Felix Garcia and Marianita Garcia, that it had been built prior to construction of the public buildings,” the court said in the decision penned by Division Chairperson Efren de la Cruz, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona.
The court also said that Boniel did not act with manifest partiality, evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence in granting the permit to his relatives as they were the sole bidders and the invitation for bidding was posted in a newspaper of general circulation.
Boniel was earlier identified as the prime suspect in the killing of his wife, Bien Unido, Bohol Mayor Gisela Boniel, who was shot dead and her body dumped off the waters of Cuabian Island in Cebu.
Boniel has denied the allegations.
Also acquitted by the court in the cockpit arena case were former municipal officials Petronilo Justiniane, Patricio Avenido, Eduardo Gentapa, Mansueto Garcia, Alejo Boniel, Rene Borenaga, Froilan Romo and Rogelio Villarias.