By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan First Division has cleared Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano of his graft charge involving the permit issued to One Way Parking Terminal Inc. (OWPTI) due to the prosecution’s failure to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Soriano was earlier charged for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for giving undue preference to OWPTI, represented by Ma. Socorro Perpetua Sancho, by issuing a provisional permit in favor of it to operate a parking and transport terminal absent prior authorization from the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Tuguegarao City.
Unfortunately for the prosecution, the anti-graft court did not find enough evidence that Soriano violated graft, since it is within the power of the city mayor to issue licenses and permits, and this is provided for under Section 455(b)(3)(iv) of R.A. 7160.
Upon careful reading of the provisional permit given by Soriano, the court learned that it was subject to a period of only 120 days or less, should the city council decide not to grant its application.
On the other hand, should the city council grant the application, then the permit becomes a regular permit. At the same time, it demanded that the OWPTI comply with the government’s legal requirements.
“The provisional permit in question should not be overstretched so as to be custom-made into a franchise. To the mind of the court, it is very clear from the wordings thereof that the accused mayor recognized the authority of the Sangguniang Panlungsod to act on the application for franchise by the mere issuance of a provisional permit,” the decision read.
The court added that the prosecution failed to sufficiently prove that Soriano acted with manifest partiality and gave unwarranted benefits in favor of OWTPI. “No evidence was adduced to show that the accused mayor had a hand in the choice of the terminals to which the transport groups were to transfer,” the decision added.
Moreover, the granting of the franchise to operate the parking terminals is vested on the city council. “Verily, inasmuch as herein accused issued the subject provisional permit devoid of any corrupt nor criminal intent, the court is therefore inclined to absolve him from any liability as regards the instant criminal charge,” the decision stated.
The 36-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona and concurred by Chairperson Efren De La Cruz and Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg.