Sandiganbayan acquits 3 ex-DENR Region III officials of graft charges

Published October 12, 2021, 4:45 PM

by Jel Santos


The Sandiganbayan has acquitted three former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Region-III officials of graft charges for reportedly giving unwarranted benefits to a land developer over a foreshore property in Zambales.

Cleared of graft charges were Regidor M. De Leon, regional executive director; Leonardo Z. Aggabao Jr., regional technical director for lands; and Fernando S. Clerigo, engineer III and regional chief of survey.

The complaint against them were filed by Jaime Lazaro, Salvador Osita, and Monico Waje.

With the acquittal of the former DENR officials, the Sandiganbayan ordered the Bureau of Immigration to remove the names of De Leon, Aggabao, and Clerigo from the watch-list.

The anti-graft court also ordered the release of the P30,000 bail paid by each of the them to the regional trial court in Gapan City, Nueva Ecija for their temporary liberty.

They were charged with “manifest partiality and evident bad faith” for allegedly conniving to favor DMCI Holdings, Inc. in the reported irregular cancellation of survey plans belonging to the complainants.

But the Sandiganbayan said the prosecution failed to prove all the elements of the offense charged.

“Neither is there any clear showing that in the cancellation of the aforesaid survey plans, the three accused misrepresented that the subject lots are submerged and under water and part of South China Sea,” it said referring to the order issued by Aggabao in January 2008 ordering the cancellation of the said survey plans.

Sandiganbayan noted that the very text “Order” means that “it was signed only by Aggabao in his capacity as regional technical director of DENR Region III.”

As such, the court noted that the signatures of De Leon and Clerigo are not found on the “Order” and that they were neither referenced there.

“The cancellation of the survey plans was upon recommendation of Special Investigator I Rowena G. Magat, Land Management Inspector Joel D. Dedicatoria and Forest Ranger Donito E. Pascual, all of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office (CENRO), Masinloc, Zambales,” the court pointed out.

“There was no mention in the Order dated January 15, 2008 that the cancellation of the survey plans of private complainants was because they are submerged or underwater and part of the South China Sea,” it stressed.

It ruled that there was no evidence that De Leon and Clerigo conspired with Aggabao in the cancellation of the survey plans of the complainants for the benefit of DMCI Holdings, Inc.

The decision was written by Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and concurred in by Associate Justices Michael Frederick L. Mungi and Bayani H. Jacinto.