SC acquits Lanao del Norte mayor of grave coercion charges

KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte – The Supreme Court (SC) has cleared Mayor Rommel Arnado here of grave coercion charges filed against him by a family who said that he forced them to leave their land in 2013.

KAUSWAGAN, Lanao del Norte Mayor Rommel Arnado (center) speaks in a press conference Friday, August 12. With him are his lawyers Isidro Barios and Warren Lim. (Bonita L. Ermac)

Arnado thanked the SC for acquitting him in a press conference at Seaside Spectrum Hotel and Restaurant here Friday, August 12.

The decision penned by Associate Justice Rodil V. Zalameda was promulgated last March 21 and granted the appeal filed by Arnado against the Sandiganbayan ruling finding him guilty of grave coercion.

According to the SC, the Sandiganbayan committed an error in its decision to convict Arnado last April 2019.

The case was filed against Arnado and two members of the Civilian Security Unit of LGU Kauswagan by the Sambuat family.

The Sambuats said they Arnado coerced to leave their residence and he ordered the demolition of their houses.

The SC ruled that the participation of Arnado in the alleged crimes committed was “merely presumed” as there was no sufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

It emphasized that in criminal cases, proof beyond reasonable doubt is required to convict an accused and that “mere speculations and conjectures are not sufficient.”

”Given the facts and circumstances of the case and the evidence on record, the Supreme Court reversed and set aside the Sandiganbayan ruling convicting Mayor Arnado for three (3) counts of Grave Coercion,” the SC said.

“Of course, masaya tayo (I am happy). I was able to redeem my name. Iyong term sa (The term in the) decision na (that) ‘there was an error in the Sandiganbayan decision against me,’ that was really redeeming and I'm very happy with that,” Arnado said.

Arnado added although he was facing more cases which were politically motivated, he was able to improve this town, and received awards both national and international.

“I have been cleared of all the cases filed against me,” he revealed.