THE Sandiganbayan has meted out a maximum 123-year jail term on retired Brig. Gen. Jose Ramiscal Jr., former president of the now-defunct Armed Forces Retirement and Separation Benefits System, and private defendant Nilo Flaviano, for jacking up the acquisition cost of 12 properties in General Santos City in 1997.
The anti-graft court’s Seventh Division convicted the two on 12 counts each of graft and falsification of public documents.
Each graft case is punishable by six years and one month to 10 years in jail while a charge of falsification of public documents bears the penalty of four years and two months to eight years and one day.
On top of the imposed jail time, both defendants were fined P5,000 for each count of falsification or a total of P60,000.
The criminal charges stemmed from a complaint filed on December 18, 1997 by former South Cotabato Rep. Luwalhati Antonino at the Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao after she received reports of anomalous real estate transactions involving the Magsaysay Park properties in her district.
Trial records showed the transactions involved 12 lots all measuring 999 sq.m. supposedly purchased by the AFP-RSBS from different owners in September 1997 for P10,500 per sq.m. or P10,489,500 each.
During trial, however, two sets of documents pertaining to each lot surfaced, but these bore different sale valuations. One set showed a price tag of P10,500 per sq.m. while the other pegged the value at only P3,000 per sq.m.
While there were 12 supposed owner-sellers, evidence showed they executed a special power of attorney in favor of Flaviano, giving him the authority to negotiate the sale on their behalf.
The anti-graft court said evidence presented by the prosecution convincingly proved the conspiracy among Ramiscal, Flaviano, and a third accused, AFP-RSBS project director Wilfredo Pabalan, who died in 2016 before the conclusion of the trial, resulting in the dismissal of cases against him.
“There was no way accused Flaviano could have successfully caused the registration of the properties in the name of AFP-RSBS on the strength of falsified unilateral deeds of sale without the participation of accused Ramiscal and Pabalan,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Individual lot owners were cleared of any criminal liability in connection with the transactions as the court noted that they were “plain laborers or construction workers” who signed documents given them by Flaviano “that they never understood.”
Records presented in court showed the AFP-RSBS paid the full cost of P52,447,500 for the first five lots while a partial payment of P49,500,000 was released for the other eight lots before further disbursements were halted.
The court held that based on the property higher valuations, total taxes on the 12 lots should have been P8.18 million. But computing the capital gains tax and documentary stamp tax using the lower property value only yielded P2.338 million, which meant the government would have been shortchanged by as much as P5.844 million.
A re-computation by the Bureau of Internal Revenue citing zonal valuation of the sold lots raised the tax total to P4.675 million.
“The government was defrauded in the amount of P3,506,490. Had it not been for the intervention of the BIR, the government would have been defrauded of a heftier sum,” the anti-graft court added.