By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
Former Aklan provincial assessor Milagros Azarcon and municipal assessor Erlinda Casimero have been acquitted by the Sandiganbayan First Division of three graft charges involving the reportedly anomalous cancellation of tax declarations.
They were slapped with three violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The graft charges were for the cancellation of Tax Declaration Nos. 1538 and 3258 covering portions of land under the name of Calixto Pelayo.
When he died, he left his land to his children Antonio, Jorge and Gloria. However, new Tax Declarations were issued for the spouses Matias and Liberty Wacan, as well as Nemesio and Alma Neron, on the basis of Gloria’s Deeds of Adjudication, wherein she represented herself as the sole daughter and only heir of Calixto.
The prosecution said that the accused “had no right to cancel the said old tax declaration and issue the new one.”
The sole basis of the prosecution in indicting the two accused was the supposed prior knowledge that Gloria was not the sole heir of Calixto when they cancelled the old Tax Declarations and issued new ones on the basis of the Deeds of Adjudication and Sale executed by Gloria.
However, the anti-graft court said in its ruling that the prosecution was unsuccessful in proving that the accused acted with manifest partiality and gross inexcusable negligence when they did so.
“Contrary to the prosecution’s contention, as in the case of the Register of Deeds, accused Casimero, being the Municipal Assessor of Malay, Aklan, had no authority to inquire into the validity or invalidity of the contents of the subject deeds,” the decision stated.
The court explained that purpose of the cancellation of the old Tax Declarations and the issuance of new ones in the name of the transferee of the property was to relieve the transferor declarant of the obligation to still pay the real estate taxes on the property.
If there was any question to the accuracy of the deeds of adjudication, the court said Section 113(b) explicitly provides that “[it] shall be understood that any recording made under this section shall be without prejudice to a third party with a better right.”
“Irrefragably, the accused have in their favor the presumption of regularity in the performance of official duties which the evidence of the prosecution failed to refute,” the decision read.
The 38-page decision was written by Chairperson Efren De La Cruz with the concurrence of Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona.