By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Negros Oriental Provincial Administrator Richard Rafal Enojo has been convicted by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division of his graft charge for using the Philippine National Police (PNP) to summon private individuals and settle a land dispute.
He was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of six years and one month imprisonment as minimum up to eight years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Enojo was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 3(a) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for using the PNP – Dauin Police Station to summon Ralph Gavin Hughes, Melinda A. Regalado and Atty. Ligaya Rubio Violeta to attend a conference with him regarding a land dispute.
According to the prosecution, persuading the PNP to summon these individuals is beyond its mandate under Section 24 of R.A. 6975 or the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Act of 1990.
Section 3(a) penalizes any public officer who “persuades, induces or influences another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulation or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter.”
During the trial, the accused did not deny that he indeed sought the assistance of the PNP on Feb. 7, 2013. But for his defense, Enojo argued that he was not yet appointed as Provincial Administrator when he made the request from the PNP.
Enojo said he was appointed as Provincial Administrator only on Feb. 5, 2014 or almost a year after the act was allegedly committed
Based on evidence, Enojo was Provincial Legal Officer from Dec. 31, 2011 and remained so during the time material to the case. The anti-graft court said in its ruling that the “very restrictive view” of Enojo regarding his positions is untenable.
“The Information speaks for itself. Based on the Information, the accused is sued as ‘a high-ranking public official being then the OIC, Provincial Legal Officer/Provincial Administrator of the Province of Negros Oriental,’ not exclusively as ‘Provincial Administrator,'” the court explained.
Moreover, the court said that it is not clear what the specific power or function the PNP had when it sent the radio message or telegram to the abovementioned individuals to attend a conference.
The Chief of Police of Dauin testified that the role of the police is to protect lives and properties, so they conduct checkpoints and mobile patrols. However, it is different from what the PNP did for Enojo in this case since there was no reported threat or danger, nor was there any crime committed or any threat to investigate.
“In sum, the accused did in fact persuade, induce or influence the Dauin Police…to act beyond the scope or in violation of its powers and functions,” the court said.
Witness Enreque Ansonio, who was then Acting Chief of Police of Dauin in 2013, testified that private individuals cannot be called to the police station who are not under criminal investigation. Neither can the public request the police to call persons to a conference regarding civil disputes. Instead, the court said that Enojo should have referred the matter to the barangay for mediation.
“It was clearly beyond the scope of the law enforcement powers of the police,” the decision read. “It was simply kowtowing to a personal request by a self-professed claimant or putative owner of a 1/8 portion of a parcel of land…without any document or evidence to support the claim.”
The 41-page decision was written by Chairperson Rafael Lagos with the concurrence of Associate Justices Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega and Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac.