By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Seventh Division has denied the motions filed by former Tabuk Mayor Camilo T. Lammawin Jr. of Kalinga and his wife Salud Imatong Lammawin seeking to overturn their conviction of graft and direct bribery relating to their demand of money in exchange for the release of payment to a construction company back in 2002.
On July 19, the anti-graft court rendered a joint decision convicting both of them of two graft and two direct bribery charges each. After their conviction, they first filed a motion for reconsideration on July 25 and then a motion for voluntary inhibition on August 1. The prosecution filed its comment on September 2.
In their motion for reconsideration, the accused claimed that their right to a fair trial has been denied because the anti-graft court did not consider all pieces of evidence, particularly the testimony of defense witness, Engr. Roy Ragunton. His testimony would’ve pointed to the veracity of the excluded evidence, such as the photocopies of acknowledgment receipts.
At the same time, the accused said that Raguton’s testimony would have proven the “glaring inconsistencies” of the testimonies of the prosecution witnesses. The accused also stressed that they were deprived of their constitutional right to speedy trial since there was a delay in the filing of the Information against them.
As for the motion for voluntary inhibition, the accused cried foul over the bias against them because they “believe that the Honorable Justices of the Seventh Division will not overturn the joint decision it issued, and had it really intended to tackle the issue on the inordinate delay in filing the criminal action, it could have done so, and the joint decision could have acquitted [them].”
In its ruling, the anti-graft court said that the accused should not litigate the same issue over and over. They have repeatedly harped on the argument of inordinate delay, not only with the Sandiganbayan, but also the Supreme Court (SC). In all instances, their motions were denied.
“This question has already been settled with finality by no less than the Supreme Court as early as December 3, 2014. This Court shall no longer be burdened by this question,” the resolution stated.
The anti-graft court likewise saw no reason for inhibition. Relying on the reasoning found in the SC’s ruling in Kilosbayan Foundation v. Janolo, Jr. et al., it reiterated that “bare allegations of bias and prejudice are not enough in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that a judge will undertake his noble role to dispense justice according to law and evidence and without fear or favor.”
Given these, the court denied both their motions for lack of merit. The 29-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo with the concurrence of Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and Associate Justice Zaldy Trespeses.
The Lammawin couple was each sentenced to an indeterminate sentence of six years and one month imprisonment as minimum to nine years as maximum for each of their graft charges, while they were sentenced to two years, four months, and one day of prison correcional medium period as minimum to eight years and one day of prison mayor medium period as maximum for each of the direct bribery charges.
They were also ordered to pay a fine of P1,200,000 and P360,000, which is thrice the value of the gift of P400,000 and P120,000, respectively, they received from RCDC.
The Lammawin couple is likewise slapped with the penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
On July 10, 2002, the couple allegedly demanded P400,000 from Rodman Construction and Development Corporation (RCDC) in exchange for the approval and release of the check amounting to P2 million, which represented the balance of the advance payment of the municipality of Tabuk to RCDC.
Then on October 18, 2002, the couple once again demanded P120,000 in exchange for the release of check payment worth P1,732,260, which is the remaining balance of the advance payment for RCDC.
Section 3(b) of R.A. 3019 penalizes the act of demanding or requesting, as well as receiving money or gifts by a public officer in his or her official capacity to intervene under the law.