Court orders forfeiture of ex-Manila vice mayor's P9-M properties

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 16 2020 04:31 PM

MANILA — The Philippines' anti-graft court has ordered the forfeiture of P-9 million worth of properties owned by former Manila Vice Mayor Danilo Lacuna and his wife Melanie, after it was found to be "out of proportion" from their combined income.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2006 which alleged that the couple had no personal financial capacity to buy the properties from 1998 to 2004.

In the decision of the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, it said Lacuna earned P3.034 million from 1998 to 2004 as vice mayor, while his wife, who worked as an employee of Philippine National Bank, had total earnings of P8.669 million.

"This disproportion creates a disputable presumption that the properties acquired from 1998 to 2004 were unlawfully acquired," the court said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.

Presiding Justice and Division Chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez concurred with the ruling.

The original complaints before the Ombudsman included criminal charges which were eventually dismissed but recommended the filing of a forfeiture case.

The former vice mayor refuted all allegations against him in his counter-affidavit in 2008 filed before the Ombudsman.

The Lacunas added that they had other legitimate sources of income from their Manila properties, as well as a restaurant in the name of Melanie, and such other sources as inheritance.

The former vice mayor also said that he was a lawyer who was engaged in private practice before entering public service.

"Although the respondents-spouses insist that they had savings and secured loans to purchase the real properties or that respondent Melanie inherited a fishpond, there was no proof of actual income derived therefrom," the court said.