Dec 5, 2020

City tourism officials guilty ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ for soliciting money

In a 65-page decision by the Sandiganbayan’s 6th Division dated November 20, the Sandiganbayan ruled both officials “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for violating Section 7(d) of Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Stands for Public Officials.

The Sandiganbayan has ordered a 2-year and one day imprisonment against city tourism head Aileen Cynthia Amurao and her operations assistant Michael Angelo Aquino Jr., in connection with a graft complaint filed against them in 2017 by the Ombudsman.

In a 65-page decision by the Sandiganbayan’s 6th Division dated November 20, the Sandiganbayan ruled both officials “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for violating Section 7(d) of Republic Act 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

The ruling did not state if the penalties imposed are executory pending any appeal by the affected parties.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed against the city tourism officials for soliciting money and accepting other gifts from business entities and private individuals in 2014.

The Sandiganbayan ordered them to be sentenced to two years and one day imprisonment, perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and a fine of P5,000 each for accepting favors and asking for money for tourism activities and events such as the Pangalipay sa Baybay from February to April 2014.

Palawan News has made several attempts to reach Amurao for comments regarding the Sandiganbayan decision with no response so far.

Their co-accused, operations assistant Joyce Cabanag Enriquez and officer III Miche Hitosis Meneses, were found not guilty of the same charge.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero and concurred by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Miranda.

Meneses, Enriquez, Aquino, and Amurao were accused of sending letters to solicit sponsorship to fund Puerto Princesa tourism activities and other projects, an act that violates the law that prohibits public officials and employees “from soliciting or accepting, directly or indirectly, any gift,  gratuity, favor, entertainment, a loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office”.

Ruling on the case, the anti-graft court said Amurao attempted to avoid responsibility for her violation by “distancing” herself from Aquino and Meneses and denied that soliciting sponsorships was her design.

Amurao’s denial, the decision said, is an “asinine excuse” as it is “buck-passing” even if Aquino had already said she and the two co-accused had nothing to do with the preparation of the sponsorship letters.

“Accused Aileen Cynthia Maggay Amurao, city tourism officer, was the chairman and overall coordinator of the 2014 Pangalipay sa Baybay. She kept herself front and center while calling the shots. Yet, she tried to dodge responsibility in this lawsuit,” the ruling stated.

The Sandiganbayan said her claim was not an acceptable excuse because there was “a phalanx of credible witnesses” who deposed that they received her signed letters and emails and pointed to her primary responsibility.

On Enriquez and Meneses, the Sandiganbayan lifted their hold departure orders and the release of their bonds for provisional liberty.

 

 

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