By Czarina Ong Ki
After he was convicted by the Sandiganbayan Special Sixth Division of his two graft charges, Dingle Mayor Rufino Pablo Palabrica III of Iloilo decided to elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
The anti-graft court approved on December 11 Palabrica’s Notice of Appeal dated November 26 since it was filed in a timely manner. Because of its approval, the Division Clerk of Court has been directed to transmit the records of the case to the SC.
Palabrica was found guilty on two counts of violation of Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, because he unlawfully and criminally entered into a contract of lease for a market stall in Dingle Public Market by signing for the lessor, the municipality of Dingle, and by signing as lessee, in violation of the law back on January 7, 2014.
That same day, he granted a business permit to Farmacia Francisca, a drugstore and medical clinic in which he has direct or indirect financial or pecuniary interest, since he is its owner.
He was sentenced to imprisonment for a period of six years and one month as minimum to eight years as maximum for each of the graft charges. He was also perpetually disqualified to hold any public office.
After his conviction, Palabrica filed a motion for reconsideration with an urgent motion to re-open the case. In his MR, Palabrica argued that the court erred in his conviction because his constitutional right to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation against him was violated. He said the charge sheets do not actually allege the violations of Section 3(h) of R.A. 3019, because nowhere was it alleged that he had a financial or pecuniary interest in the transaction.
As for his bid to re-open the case, Palabrica said that his previous counsel acted with “inexcusable negligence” because he made a “clerical error” with the Transcript Stenographic Notes (TSN), which might have misled the anti-graft court.
This was with regards to the term “moonlighting” used by the accused, which he wanted to retract after the trial.
However, the court ruled that his “obtrusive argument… cannot pass fair scrutiny.” The court said Palabrica’s direct testimony, as explicitly stated in the TSN, prevails.
The resolution was signed by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.