By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Special Seventh Division has affirmed the conviction of former San Jose Mayor Nelson Siglos Ruiz of Negros Oriental of his graft charge because he issued a license to a cockpit in which he had direct financial interest.
He was earlier convicted of violating Section 3(h) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for issuing the license to operate to cockpit business owner Felix Ramirez on April 16, 2009.
Section 3(h) prohibits officials from having direct or indirect pecuniary interest in any business or transaction that the government is entering into.
Ruiz filed a motion for reconsideration and argued that he did not have any pecuniary interest over the cockpit, since he only owned the land where it stood. Ruiz added that when he authorized the use of his land by the cockpit, he did so in his personal capacity.
However, the Sandiganbayan was not swayed by his arguments and found that he presented “no cogent reason to reverse its decision.”
The fact that Ruiz leased his land to the owner of the cockpit reveals his interest in it, the court ruled.
“While it is true that as owner of the land in his private capacity, accused Ruiz had the right to enjoy and dispose of it, this is subject to limitations established by law,” the resolution read.
“As a public officer, accused Ruiz’s exercise of these rights is limited, and he overstepped these limits by leasing out the property for the use of a cockpit over which he is not allowed by law to have direct or indirect interest in, for a fee,” it added.
Ruiz was meanwhile acquitted of his other graft charge for violationg Section 3(d) of RA 3019.
While the prosecution managed to prove that Logronio was indeed employed in Ramirez’s cockpit, it is not enough to convict Ruiz of Section 3(d). This was for allowing his daughter, Susan R. Logronio, to accept employment as a cashier in the cockpit business of Ramirez on April 15, 2009.
In its August 28 decision, the court ruled that “the scant evidence presented by the prosecution does not show when Logronio’s services were engaged by the subject cockpit. Thus, there is no basis to determine whether such engagement coincided with the pendency of the cockpit’s application for business permit.”
More importantly, the court noted that there is no evidence linking Logronio’s engagement with the cockpit to Ruiz. There is no evidence that Logronio consulted with Ruiz or sought his permission before deciding to work for the cockpit.
Ruiz was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and one month as minimum and 10 years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
The three-page resolution was penned by Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta with the concurrence of Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Bayani Jacinto.