By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has modified its sentence against Jimalalud Mayor Reynaldo Tuanda of Negros Oriental after finding him guilty of graft in relation to the permit he granted to himself to operate as a cockpit promoter back in 2010.
Tuanda was convicted for violating Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act on August 30 and was initially sentenced to imprisonment of one year and one month as minimum to six years as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
But in the latest resolution written by Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, the anti-graft court decided to change his prison sentence to just a fine of P10,000.
After his conviction, Tuanda filed a motion for reconsideration on September 12, which was opposed by the prosecution on September 24.
Tuanda argued that his constitutional right to be informed of the accusation against him was not satisfied by the prosecution. He stressed that it was the Sangguniang Bayan, not the mayor, that can issue a business permit or license. As a result, his action cannot be criminalized, “having no power to abuse or misuse.”
However, the anti-graft court found his motion devoid of merit. “Accused Tuanda admitted in open court and in his counter-affidavit that he paid the amount of P250 for a cockpit promoter’s license, which he himself issued. A cockpit promoter is engaged in promoting cockfighting, which may be regarded as a business,” the court explained.
“His actual intervention in the business of cockfighting by issuing to himself a promoter’s license, is prohibited by law, specifically under 892 of R.A. 7160,” it added.
The said law states that it is unlawful for any local government official or employee to hold such interest in any cockpit or other games licensed by a local government unit.
But while the anti-graft court did not agree with Tuanda’s arguments in his MR, it did adhere to Section 514 of the Local Government Code of 1991, which prescribes a lighter penalty of imprisonment.
“Wherefore, premises considered, accused Tuanda’s Motion for Reconsideration is partially granted… and is therefore ordered to pay a fine of P10,000,” the dispositive portion of the resolution read.
Tuanda unlawfully granted himself a permit to operate or engage as a cockpit promoter from January 8, 2010 to December 31, 2010, thereby gaining direct financial and pecuniary interest in cockfights within the municipality.
He granted himself a permit as cockpit promoter even without an ordinance from the Sangguniang Bayan authorizing the establishment of cockpits.