By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (DARAB) Region XII adjudicator Henry Magaway Gelacio has been convicted by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division of graft and breach of conduct charge due to the extortion of money and a whole tuna fish.
He was sentenced to suffer imprisonment for six years and one month as minimum to eight years as maximum for his graft charge, while he is facing imprisonment from one year and one day as minimum to a maximum of five years due to breach of conduct charge.
On five separate occasions from August 14 to November 19, 2007, Gelacio extorted from a group of individuals P120,000 and a whole tuna fish in exchange for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and injunction order in a DARAB case.
The complainants, Eduardito Garbo, Miguel Engagamao, Marisa Egagamao, Bebiano Egagamao, Zenona Egagamao, Saturnina Egagamao, Dominador Egagamao, Lucia Egagamao, Celso Palado Sr., Aniceto Mejala, Jonathan Villegas, Herminigilda Garbo, Shirley Glodove and Norberto Malubay, said that they were forced to sell their farm animals, tools and materials at extremely low prices just so they could cough up the money.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court said it has established beyond reasonable doubt the guilt of Gelacio in both the graft and breach of conduct charges.
“The prosecution correctly pointed out that the accused caused undue injury to Mr. Garbo and the plaintiffs in the DARAB case when he solicited and accepted the aggregate amount of P40,000 and a whole tuna fish in exchange for the issuance of the TRO dated October 2, 2007,” the decision read.
“Public officials and employees should perform his or her duties without expecting or demanding anything in return,” it added.
Gelacio made a “sweeping self-serving denial” of the accusations against him, the court noted, but he did not categorically deny these in the judicial affidavit dated March 4, 2018 and during the direct examination. At the same time, the court stressed that denial in itself is “inherently weak” during a trial.
“We cannot overemphasize the need for honesty and integrity on the part of all those who are in the government service,” the decision stated. “The Court takes this opportunity to remind every public official and employee that they are under obligation to perform the duties of their office honestly, faithfully and to the best of their ability.”
The 34-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero with the concurrence of Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.