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 Graft conviction a hell for retiring public servants

06 Mar

“Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It’s self-defense. It’s patriotism.” Joe Biden

By Alex P. Vidal

THE worst thing that could happen to any public servant is to be slapped and convicted with a graft and corruption case during retirement age.

If there is a jail term aside from forfeiture of benefits, among other penalties, it’s really hell.

The sorrows, anxieties and stress felt by those convicted and their relatives and friends are doubled.

They also have domino effects.

Their health will be affected. When the mind is in deep sadness, the heart is in pain; the body deteriorates.

The children are traumatized.

Instead of spending the retirement years enjoying the fruits of their labor, they will agonize worrying how to wiggle out from the mess.

Those who are remorseful and bothered by their conscience console themselves by the thoughts that if they could only turn back the time, they would never ever dip their fingers in the cookie jar.

Those who think they are innocent and only unfairly dragged in the fiasco and have not benefited even a single centavo, will fight to clear their names and defend their dignity to death.

But it’s stamina-sapping. Nerve-tingling. Time-consuming.

Not during retirement age.

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JANIUAY Mayor Frankie Locsin, et al can still appeal their conviction for violation of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019 in relation to the anomalous purchase of medicine using Sen. Vicente “Tito” Sotto III’s P15-million  Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) way back in 2001.

In a graft conviction, however, the chances of those who are making an appeal are nil.

The right to file a motion for reconsideration is accorded to anyone convicted of any offense under the principle of due process of law.

The Sandiganbayan is mandated “to give life and meaning to the constitutional precept that a public office is a public trust and to impress upon public officers and employees that they are at all times accountable to the people with their duty to serve with the highest degree of responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency.”

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According to its mission, the Sandiganbayan “carries out this objective by conducting expeditious trials of criminal and civil cases involving offenses committed by public officers and employees, including those employed in government-owned or controlled corporations.”

The conviction by the Sandiganbayan First Division of Locsin, accountant Carlos Moreno Jr., budget officer Ramon Tirador, treasurer Luzviminda Figueroa, Ricardo Minurtio, and businessman Rodrigo Villanueva also carried a penalty of imprisonment from six to 10 years aside from forfeiture of benefits and perpetual disqualification from public office.

If they can reverse their fortune and get away from the hullabaloo with their full faculties intact, the damage on their names has been done.

Until all the legal options and solutions have been exhausted, we can’t say with absolute certainty that they are guilty.

The preponderance of evidence, however, clearly illustrated the presence of a conspiracy as stated by the court decision, to wit: “The Court finds…conspiracy between accused public officials (and) members of the municipal Committee on Awards of Janiuay…as shown by their respective signatures in the Minutes of Meetings which awarded the subject procurement of medicines in favor of AM Europharma and Mallix Drug Center…(this) gave undue advantage to accused Rodrigo Villanueva, owner and proprietor of said companies.”

Penned by Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada and concurred by First Division Chairman Efren dela Cruz and Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, the 34-page decision was dated February 23, 2015.

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