MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the conviction for graft of Mayor Efren Alvarez of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija.
In their full-court session last Tuesday, the SC justices dismissed Alvarez’s petition and upheld a 2009 ruling of the Sandiganbayan convicting him for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
This, in effect, unseats Alvarez and upholds the designation of Vice Mayor Ester Lazaro as acting Muñoz mayor last November.
Records show that Alvarez was found guilty of graft on Nov. 16, 2009. In its verdict, the anti-graft court sentenced him to a jail term of six to 10 years, disqualified him from holding public office, and ordered him to pay P4.8 million in damages to the city government of Muñoz.
The case was filed in 1997 when the municipal government then headed by Alvarez awarded a P240-million contract to build a four-story shopping mall on government property to a private company.
However, after demolishing the old buildings and excavating a portion of the land, the contractor abandoned the project.
It later turned out that the contractor was not licensed and did not have the experience and financial qualifications to undertake the project.
In his defense, Alvarez, who was also Muñoz mayor from 1992 to 2001, said he merely executed a municipal council resolution and that the local government suffered no damage or harm.
The anti-graft court, however, dismissed his argument.
Alvarez reportedly went missing after the Sandiganbayan issued an arrest warrant for him last year.
Despite this, he has reportedly been giving instructions to local government personnel through phone calls.