Ex-city engineer of Iligan acquitted of graft

By Czarina Nicole Ong

The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division has acquitted Franklin D. Maata, former city engineer of Iligan City, of his graft charge in relation to the reported unfair treatment of one of his employees' salary.

(Credits: Pixabay | Manila Bulletin) (Credits: Pixabay | Manila Bulletin)

Maata was charged with violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for "committing the offense in relation to his duty to evaluate, approve or sign the Daily Time Records (DTR) of employees," his charge sheet read.

The offense was committed against Robert L. Ong back in August 2011. Since Maata refused to sign his DTR, Ong's salaries amounting to P30,352 and P2,000 were withheld.

Section 3(e) of the said law states that it is unlawful for public officials to cause "any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence."

During the trial, the prosecution was able to prove that Maata did not sign Ong's DTR for August 2011. They were also successful in proving that Maata's refusal to sign the DTR was attended with evident bad faith.

A memorandum dated July 21, 2011 was issued by Gino Alejo, Chief of the Motorpool and Shop Services Division, and noted by Maata. In it, Ong was assigned to the city dumpsite at Barangay Santiago for the Preventive Maintenance Schedule of heavy equipment.

Upon receiving the memorandum, Ong desisted from going to the dumpsite and instead came to the City Engineer's Office and registered attendance there. Because he refused to work on the dumpsite, Maata refused to sign his DTR.

However, the Civil Service Commission settled on April 23, 2014 that neither Alejo nor Maata are agency heads who had the authority to reassign Ong. They may validly recommend his reassignment, but it was the City Mayor who has the authority to move him.

"Ong was practically exiled to a garbage dumpsite indefinitely as his place of work. His apparent task was to closely supervise heavy equipment used at the dumpsite, since that was his only task, as specified in the memorandum," the court ruled.

"This speaks loudly of accused Maata's disregard not only of Ong's position as Engineer III, but even more importantly, his health and self-worth, which cannot be muted by the mere presence that he was assigned to supervise heavy equipment," it added.

However, the prosecution failed in establishing undue injury. Since Ong has already been paid his salary amounting to P30,352 as well as his rice allowance of P2,000, it was no longer of any matter that Maata refused to sign his DTR.

"As of said date, there was nothing more to compensate," the resolution read. "In the absence of the third element , no criminal liability can be imputed against accused Maata."

The 23-page decision was penned by Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta with the concurrence of Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Georgina Hidalgo.