By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Former Acting Provincial Administrator Manuel Nilves Tabora, who was also Nueva Vizcaya’s Budget Officer, has been found guilty of graft by the Sandiganbayan for receiving money in exchange for his services as a local government official.
He was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of six years and one month as minimum to eight years as maximum imprisonment. He was also directed to pay P250,000, with interest, to the private complainant – International Minerals Marketing and Advising Inc. (IMAAI), as part of his civil liability.
On the other hand, his breach of conduct charge, otherwise known as Section 7(d) of R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, was ordered dismissed because it is “very much akin in coverage or scope” to the graft charge.
Tabora was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(c) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in a 31-page decision by the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division.
Section 3(c) of the said law penalizes officials who requested or received gifts or other material benefits “in consideration for the help given to or to be given” by them using their positions.
On April 12, 2011, Tabora received P250,000 from Steven R. Shieldkret, representative of IMMAI. The money was in exchange for his assistance in securing the required permits for IMMAI for one of its ore trading businesses.
These permits are the Ore Transport Permit and the Mineral Ore Export Permit, which are issued under the authority of the Provincial Mining Regulatory Board (PMRB), where the provincial governor sits either as chairman or member.
In this case, the anti-graft court found all elements of the crime present even though the business transaction between Tabora and IMMAI fell through.
“The crime charged against Tabora was consummated when he accepted the check and deposited the same to his account,” the court ruled.
Tabora claimed that the check from IMAAI was issued in his name simply because it was requested by a certain Mr. Villasan, introduced to him as a retired Regional Prosecutor of Region III and a visitor in the Office of the Governor.
Villasan reportedly said it was because Tabora knew the managers of the banks in the province, and it would help them immediately encash the check to avoid delays.
However, the anti-graft court found it a “shallow and incredible excuse.” It is also “preposterous” for the court that Tabora would advance the P250,000 out of his own pocket to give to Villasan, since the amount is “not mere pittance” given his P18,334 monthly salary.
“That he even went to the office of money remittance company, M. Lhuiller, to get proof that he sent the money to Villasan, but records were no longer available, deserves, if anything, very scant consideration,” the decision stated.
The 31-page decision was written by Chairperson Rafael Lagos with the concurrence of Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.