Sandiganbayan acquits NegOcc town mayor of graft

MANILA For failure of state prosecutors to prove that a municipal mayor of Negros Occidental unlawfully transferred a public health worker from a government hospital to a barangay health center in 2010, the Sandiganbayan has cleared the local chief executive of graft charges.

In a decision dated last Sept. 7, the Sandigayan Special 7th Division acquitted mayor John Rey D. Tabujara of Cauayan, Negros Occidental of violation of Section 3 (f) of Republic Act (RA) No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Court records showed that the case stemmed from a complaint filed by Mae Joy Magbanua, a registered nurse, who questioned her reassignment from the Cauayan District Hospital to Barangay Talacdan after a dengue outbreak, afflicting 20 people and resulting in the death of two persons in the area in 2010.

Magbanua cried foul at being handed a new assignment, and appealed the same to the Civil Service Commission (CSC).

During the pendency of her appeal before the CSC, Magbanua alleged that Tabujara unlawfully neglected to hold in abeyance her reassignment, contrary to CSC Memorandum Circular No. 9, s. 2010, prompting her to file the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman, finding probable cause, charged Tabujara before the Sandiganbayan with graft charge on July 12, 2016.

The anti-graft court, however, disagreed with the prosecution's argument that due to Magbanua's filing of an appeal before the CSC, Tabujara had no other option but to hold in abeyance the implementation of the order of reassignment of the health worker.

It noted that the resignation of the lone health worker in Barangay Talacdan amid the prevalence of dengue fever demanded that a health worker be made immediately available.

Hence, the suspension of the implementation of the reassignment of Magbanua would have done a disservice to the general welfare of the people of Barangay Talacdan, the Sandiganbayan said.

In fine, absent sufficient evidence showing that accused Tabujara unjustifiably held in abeyance the implementation of the order of reassignment of Magbanua, the prosecution was not able to establish, beyond reasonable doubt, all of the elements of Violation of Section 3 (f) of RA 3019, it added.

The Sandiganbayan also ordered the release of the cash bond posted by Tabujara, subject to the usual accounting procedures.

The hold departure order issued by the anti-graft court on July 18, 2016 was set aside, and the order issued by the Bureau of Immigration incorporating his name on the hold departure list was ordered recalled and cancelled. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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