Sorsogon lawmaker convicted of graft
First Posted 21:59:00 03/03/2010
Filed Under: Congress, Graft & Corruption, Crime
MANILA, Philippines–The antigraft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday sentenced to up to 10 years in jail an incumbent Sorsogon congressman after finding him guilty of graft and falsification for wrongly classifying a government lot to favor a private claimant more than 10 years ago.
The court’s third Division also disqualified from holding any public office Sorsogon second District Rep. Jose Solis, who is running for governor.
The court also found guilty of graft his co-accused, Florencia Garcia-Diaz, the private claimant who stood to benefit from the wrong classification of almost 5,000 hectares of the Fort Magsaysay Military Reservation in Nueva Ecija.
Solis, who was present when the decision was promulgated, is planning to appeal his conviction. His lawyers, however, refused to give any statement when approached by the Inquirer.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Diaz and Solis, former administrator of the National Mapping and Resource Information Administration (Namria). Included in the graft complaint were former Solicitor General Ricardo Galvez; former Namria officer in charge Salvador Bonnevie; former Remote Sensing and Resource Data Analysis Department head Virgilio Fabian Jr.; and senior remote sensing technologists Ireneo Valencia and Arthur Viernes.
It also filed falsification charges against Solis, Bonnevie, Fabian, Valencia and Viernes.
The Sandiganbayan earlier dismissed the case against Galvez after he died in 2005, while it acquitted Bonnevie, Valencia and Viernes. Fabian remains at large.
The cases stemmed from the compromise agreement in May 1999 between Diaz and Galvez. The Office of the Solicitor General agreed to withdraw its opposition to Diaz’s ownership of at least 4,689 ha of government property.
The lot is part of the Nueva Ecija military reservation and, therefore, cannot be registered to any private owner. But a survey released by Namria and signed by Solis in February 1998 said the lot Diaz was claiming was outside the reservation.
This survey report became the basis of the settlement.
“In effect, the republic gave away an inalienable and unregistrable part of the public domain,” said the Sandiganbayan.
The decision, penned by Associate Justice Efren Dela Cruz, said it was Namria’s survey, signed by Solis, which gave the illegal settlement a “semblance of propriety and legitimacy.” /