SC acquits Sibonga mayor of graft

·1 min read

The Supreme Court First Division has acquitted Sibonga Mayor Lionel Bacaltos of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for receiving a P17,512 Philhealth honorarium in 2015.

It also reversed and set aside the May 17, 2019 decision of the Sandiganbayan that found Bacaltos guilty.

The SC decision was promulgated on July 28, 2020, a copy of which SunStar Cebu got on Jan. 28, 2021.

In 2015 Bacaltos was mayor of Sibonga, Cebu when town councilor Mary Jojie Chan filed a complaint against him before the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas over his receiving an honorarium of P17,512 from the Capitation Fund of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) to which he was not entitled because he was a non-health professional.

On Jan. 12, 2018, 5he Ombudsman elevated the case to the Sandiganbayan, which found Bacaltos guilty of the charge of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Bacaltos appealed the Sandigan decision before the SC on three grounds: the Sandiganbayan did not have jurisdiction over the case, his right to due process was violated, and he received the honorarium in good faith and without gross negligence or manifest partiality.

In its decision, the SC First Division disagreed with Bacaltos on the Sandigan jurisdiction and violation of due process.

The SC, however, found that Bacaltos "did not act with manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and or inexcusable negligence when he received the honorarium."

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier and concurred by Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Jose Reyes Jr. and Mario Lopez. (MPS)