By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has found former Concepcion Mayor Lemuel Fesalbon Cipriano guilty beyond reasonable doubt of unlawful appointment and was sentenced to suffer a straight penalty of imprisonment of four months of arresto mayor and to pay a fine of P1,000.
On August 20, 2013, Cipriano violated Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code when he appointed Diosdado Atillano as Administrative Officer despite knowing that Atillano is ineligible to a public office as provided under Section 94(b) of R.A. 7160 or the Local Government Code for having run and lost as candidate for the position of Sangguniang Bayan Member during the May 2013 elections.
During the trial, Cipriano said he acted in good faith when he appointed Atillano because he was of the honest belief that the appointment was valid. He explained that the position given to Atillano was confidential and co-terminus to his term as mayor.
However, the court was not convinced by Cipriano’s defense. “By his own admission, accused Cipriano was fully aware that Atillano ran and lost during the May 2013 elections which preceded his appointment,” the decision stated.
“This apparently runs counter to his own testimony that he checks the qualifications of his staff before hiring them,” it added.
Had Cipriano really conducted a thorough review of Atillano’s qualifications prior to his hiring, the court said it would have been clear that he was prohibited from being appointed to his post.
At the same time, Cipriano’s defense of good faith is negated by the successive denials by the Civil Service Commission on the appeal remedies of Cipriano.
The 14-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez with the concurrences of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Ronald Moreno.