Sandiganbayan metes out 20-year jail term vs. ex-Cavite town mayor

MANILA-- The Sandiganbayan has found former Amadeo, Cavite Mayor Albert Ambagan Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the "Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act".

The anti-graft court sentenced Ambagan to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of six to 10 years for each count.

During trial, prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) proved that Ambagan caused undue injury to the family of Simplicio Lumandas when he unlawfully caused the demolition of their ancestral home in February 2008 to give way to the development of Balite Falls as an ecotourism area.

Effectively, the accused deprived the Lumandas family of the use and enjoyment of almost 7,000 square meters of their own property.

Ombudsman prosecutors presented witnesses who claimed that Ambagan stated that, "Ako ang mayor dito. Ako ang masusunod. Lahat ng lupa dito i-expropriate ko (I'm the mayor here. My orders will be followed. I'll expropriate all the lands here)."

Court documents showed that no expropriation proceeding was undertaken prior to the take over of the properties in Barangay Halang.

In its ruling, the Sandiganbayan said that "for a government entity to take such property, there must be an expropriation, purchase or any other form of agreement, consent or even tolerance from the owner. So, when the accused ordered the construction works on the properties of the complaining witnesses, there was evident bad faith in his actions because he knew that the municipality and the Philippine Tourism Authority did not possess any order of condemnation or any written agreement of consent for them to utilize the land."

The Sandiganbayan added that Ambagan decided to pursue the construction works "even though the appropriate consent of the owners was not yet secured. As a matter of fact, the accused was not able to present in Court, any document that shows that the complaining witnesses agreed to the construction works done on their property."

Source: Philippines News Agency

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