By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Former Sta. Monica Mayor Rosalinda Penera of Surigao del Norte has been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan First Division of her graft charge in connection with the purchase of a parcel of land from 2010 to 2013.
Penera was initially charged with violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act alongside municipal accountant designate Dianette Evangelista, municipal treasurer Aurea Menil, municipal budget officer Gilbert Dagcuta, municipal budget officer designate Lei Amor Laplana, and private individual Rodulfo Arlan Sr.
They were accused of giving unwarranted benefit to Arlan when they purchased from him a parcel of land located at Poctoy, Barangay T-Arlan, Sta. Monica, Surigao del Norte, which would be used for the Core Shelter Assistance Project (CSAP).
They reportedly paid P980,000 to him even without the prior and specific authorization from the Sangguniang Bayan and without the specific appropriation ordinance for its payment.
When the accused were arraigned on November 28, 2018, they all pleaded not guilty to the crime charged.
During the trial, the anti-graft court learned that the purchase of land was indeed intended for the housing assistance program. Because Sta. Monica is a coastal town and often exposed to typhoons, it sought assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) for the CSAP.
The Sangguniang Bayan, for its part, issued a resolution authorizing Penera to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the DSWD and another one allocating the parcel of land owned by Arlan to be utilized as the project site for the CSAP.
“Gleaned from the tenor of the two resolutions, which were both unanimously approved by the Sanggunian Bayan members, and the purpose or objective for which they were adopted, there should be no room for doubt that accused Mayor Penera was actually clothed with authority to purchase the needed property that would serve as a site for the DSWD assisted housing project,” the court ruled.
The Sandiganbayan said in its decision that the claim made by the prosecution that Penera had no authority to purchase the property defies “basic logic,” and actually goes against the directive of the Sanggunian Bayan resolutions.
“Such authority that was bestowed upon the accused mayor inevitably negates the charge of manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence on her part,” the decision added.
The anti-graft court ordered that the P30,000 bond posted by Penera and her co-accused for their provisional liberty be released, and that the hold departure order issued against them be recalled.