Sandiganbayan junks motion of ex-Manila vice mayor in ill-gotten wealth case

Published January 19, 2021, 10:31 AM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Third Division has affirmed its decision ordering former Manila Vice Mayor Danilo Lacuna and his wife Melanie to return P9 million worth of government assets that have been deemed to be “unlawfully acquired.”

(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Lacuna and his wife filed a motion for reconsideration and argued that the prosecution failed to prove the spirit of R.A. 1379, which required that the property to be forfeited must be found to have been unlawfully acquired.

They said the original copies of their statement of assets liabilities and net worth (SALN) were neither presented nor admitted by them, so there was an unjust implementation of the law.

The Lacuna couple also drew comparisons to the forfeiture cases of the Marcos family, which were dismissed by different divisions of the Sandiganbayan.

They said the Marcos family amassed wealth beyond their means, but they were still let off the hook.

They said they should be accorded the same treatment, especially considering the “ill-gotten wealth” involved are just two real properties allegedly used as their family home.

However, the anti-graft court said in its resolution that the decisions of the Sandiganbayan in the Marcos cases are not “binding precedents.”

Any decision rendered by the other divisions of this Court have no binding effect on the decisions rendered by this division,” the resolution stated.

As for the other arguments of the respondents, the anti-graft court brushed these aside as “substantive reiterations” of their earlier arguments.

“Wherefore, premises considered, the motion for reconsideration dated August 2, 2020 of respondents-movants Danilo B. Lacuna and Melanie H. Lacuna, is hereby denied for lack of merit,” the resolution read.

The five-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez.

In a 53-page ruling dated July 7, 2020, the anti-graft court granted the petition of the Ombudsman to forfeit the properties of the Lacunas amounting to P9,003,879.42.

These include a house and lot in Bacood, Sta. Mesa, Manila; a house and lot in Sakolo corner Biyaya Sts. in Sampaloc, Manila acquired in 1999; a lot located in Tagaytay City acquired in 2000; a Honda CRV and a Hyundai Starex; and shares of stocks worth P6,605,000 as indicated in Danilo’s statement of assets liabilities and net worth (SALN).

During his term as vice mayor from 1998 to 2004, Lacuna and his wife acquired properties amounting to P20,707,168.84.

However, the anti-graft court ruled that this amount was “manifestly out of proportion” from their joint income of P11,703,289.42.

“This disproportion creates a disputable presumption that the properties acquired from 1998 to 2004 were unlawfully acquired and that the respondent-spouses have the burden of rebutting the presumption,” the decision read.

 
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