By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division has cleared former Department of Agriculture (DA) undersecretary Belinda Gonzales of two perjury charges in relation to the allegedly false values of her house and lot in her Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth in 2005 and 2006.
Gonzales was initially slapped with two counts of perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code. She stated in her SALNs that she acquired a house and lot in Project 6, Quezon City for P2.6 million even though she purchased it from Elizabeth Hael for only P900,000.
During the trial of the case, the anti-graft court discovered that the Deed of Absolute Sale for Hael’s property dated November 7, 2002 did indicate the amount of P900,000. However, it was also very clear that the object of the sale was only a “parcel of land…situated in Brgy. Proj. 6 Q. City, Metro Manila.”
The prosecution’s witness, lawyer Dennis Mendoza of the Graft Investigation and Prosecution Office, also confirmed that there was no mention of house or other accessory in the Deed of Sale.
“Clearly, the amount of P900,000 stated in the Deed of Absolute Sale corresponds to the purchase price of the parcel of land only in Project 6, Quezon City,” the decision read.
The Sandiganbayan found Gonzales’ testimony explaining what transpired in 2002 when she sought a bank loan from RCBC to finance the purchase of the property. The Court likewise noted her testimony that she dealt with townhouse developer, Arthur S. Ignacio, for the purchase of the townhouse.
“Manifestly, the bank appraised the value of the townhouse at P1,680,000. For this reason, accused’s declaration in her 2005 and 2006 SALNs that the aquisition cost of her townhouse is P170,000,000 is believable, being just P20,000 short of the bank’s appraisal,” the decision stated.
The anti-graft court said that Gonzales has to be acquitted because not all elements of the charge of perjury were established. More particularly, the prosecution was unsuccessful in establishing that Gonzales made a willful and deliberate falsehood in her 2005 and 2006 SALNs.
The 26-page decision was written by Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses with the concurrence of Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo.