By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Second Division has convicted Butuan City Councilor Sergio Pascual of usurpation due to the removal and demolition of concrete barriers in the city without a go signal from the city council back in 2013.
He was sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of six months and one day as minimum, to four years and two months as maximum, for violating Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code. As for his civil liability, Pascual was ordered to restitute the amount of P30,000 to his complainant, Potenciano Malvar.
On July 19, 2013, Pascual caused the demolition and removal of concrete barriers set up by Malvar at the southwest portion of the open space of Malvar Subdivision, Butuan City. In doing so, he usurped the city council which has the authority under Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 to authorize the removal of encroachments and illegal constructions in public places.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court said it was clear Pascual ordered the removal of the concrete barriers under the pretense of his official function.
Pascual, who is known in Butuan City as the “Action Man” and “Superman ng mga Pobre (of the Poor),” reportedly acted on the clamor of the people to remove the barriers, which had become a nuisance. Because of this, Pascual said he merely acted in good faith.
However, the court said he was not given any specific assignment or authority by the city council to undertake the removal of the concrete barriers. Pascual’s defense of good faith, therefore, has become “unacceptable,” the court ruled.
“Being a public officer, it was his sworn duty to know the powers and functions of the position he was then holding,” the decision read.
At the same time, the court said the concrete barriers were not even situated in danger areas. There was likewise no court order authorizing the demolition of the concrete barriers.
The anti-graft court stressed that public officials cannot break the law that they were duty-bound to enforce. In this case, the court said Pascual “performed a task without color of law.”
The 20-page decision was written by Second Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. with the concurrences of Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Lorifel Pahimna.