Former Maguindanao town mayor acquitted of perjury charges

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Former Datu Odin Sinsuat (DOS) Mayor Lester Seismundo Sinsuat of Maguindanao has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division of perjury charges due to the reportedly false declarations made in his Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) for the years 2011 and 2012.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN) Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Sinsuat was accused of violating two counts of perjury under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code. In the first charge, he failed to indicate ownership of a real property located in Awang (Tamontaka), DOS, which was covered under Transfer Certificate Title No. T-37110. For the second charge, he failed to include a real property located in Capiton, DOS covered by Transfer Certificate Title No. T-38860.

During the trial, the accused said that the questioned properties were declared in his 2011 and 2012 SALNs, and he invoked good faith in not providing the exact details of these properties.

He explained that the property covered by TCT No. T-37110 was classified as residential. It was his Tax Declaration No. 621 and 820 that refer to the same property covered by TCT No. 37110.

"Hence, it is logically deduced that the property was once residential that was recently converted to commercial. This Court, therefore, lends credence to accused's assertion that the alleged undeclared property covered by TCT No. T-37110 was, in fact, disclosed in the 2011 SALN," the decision read.

As for the second property, covered by Transfer Certificate Title No. T-38860, the anti-graft court once again believed the accused's reasoning that it is the same one as "Agri. Land, DOS, Mag." declared in his 2012 SALN.

"Thusly, while accused's failure to pay attention to minute details of his SALN is a ground to sanction him administratively, the same does not warrant a conviction for perjury, absent any strong evidence of his deliberate intention to assert something that is not true," the court ruled.

The 19-page decision was written by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Mañalac with the concurrence of Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.