MANILA— The Sandiganbayan has cleared former Gumaca, Quezon mayor Juanito Bañal of graft and estafa over a year after he passed away.
In a decision promulgated on September 29, 2020, the Sandiganbayan 2nd Division ruled that the cases of Bañal, who died on July 13, 2019, were deemed extinguished as provided for in Article 89 of the Revised Penal Code.
The anti-graft court also noted in the ruling that the prosecution was not able to establish the guilt of Bañal, as well as other former municipal officials of Gumaca, Quezon, namely: Jose Olivera, Leo Lota, Flores Magsino, Susan Christine Villanueva, Susan Ladlad and private individual Aristedes Lindog.
According to the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman separately in 2011 and 2012, the former municipal officials allegedly conspired with Lindog, owner of a motor shop, for the purchase of a 10-seater semi-stainless Asian Utility Vehicle for P380,000 when it should have only amounted to P100,000.
But the prosecution, the court said, failed to present evidence that set the parameter upon which to lay the basis of what may be considered a just or reasonable price of the vehicle.
“It did not offer proof that a vehicle with the same specification costs less than that of the purchased vehicle such that the price difference is obviously flagrant,” it said.
The court also declared that there was no falsification of documents or conspiracy among the accused.
The decision was penned by Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, Jr., with the concurrence of Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna.
Aside from the acquittal of the accused, the court also absolved them from any civil liability and ordered that their bail bonds be released and hold departure orders be lifted. — Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News