MANILA, Philippines – Three officials of Rodriguez town in Rizal were convicted of graft and sentenced to 6 to 9 years in jail by the Sandiganbayan Second Division in a decision involving unlawful demolition of shanties in a private land in 2003.
Former Rodriguez Mayor Pedro Cuerpo, former municipal engineer Fernando Roño and barangay chairman Salvador Simbulan were sentenced on Monday and disqualified from holding public office.
Meanwhile, an arrest warrant was issued against a fourth defendant, demolition team leader Renato Evasco, who remains at large and did not participate in the trial.
In the 30-page ruling by Associate Justice Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos, the defendants were found guilty of causing undue injury to 93 families during a demolition in October 2003.
Associate Justices Napoleon E. Inoturan and Oscar C. Herrera Jr. concurred with the pronouncement that the officials did not observe proper procedures before undertaking the demolition.
"In fine, the Court finds objectionable the manner by which the series of demolitions were conducted. The accused have not shown…any compelling necessity for precipitate action. It follows then that they transcended their authority when they summarily demolished the complainants' makeshift homes, thus depriving them of their properties without due process of law," the court declared.
In its ruling, the court also noted that although the structures were not permanent, the land they were on had already been paid for.
“If demolition of illegal structures or dwelling places of informal settlers still needs to follow the proper procedure, especially notices, the observance of procedure should be more stringent on property owners with respect to construction on their own land," the court said.