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Thursday, February 29, 2024

Court acquits ex-QC treasurer of graft charges

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A Quezon City official on Wednesday lauded the decision of the Supreme Court, acquitting him of criminal culpability in the auction of a three-hectare lot inside the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. at the corner of Quezon Ave. and Epifanio delos Santos Ave. (EDSA).

City treasurer Edgar Villanueva, in an exclusive interview, said the High Court’s Second Division ruling has established that the foreclosed Manila Seedling was not tax-exempt, and that its auction in 2011 was valid.

 “WHEREFORE, the Decision promulgated on 15 November 2019 and Resolution dated 13 February 2020 by the Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. SB-17-CRM-0119 are REVERSED and SET ASIDE. Accused-appellant Edgar T. Villanueva is ACQUITTED of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, on the ground that his guilt was not established beyond reasonable doubt,” the decision stated.

The Sandiganbayan convicted Villanueva on charges violating the anti-graft law, and sentenced him to six years to to 10 years, permanent disqualification to hold public office.

The anti-graft court ruled that Villanueva unlawfully auctioned off a portion of the Manila Seedling property without a notice of assessment.

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“Out of the 12 respondents in the Office of the Ombudsman, only I was left behind to face charges at the Sandiganbayan. If there was no notice of assessment, why is it that the (chief of the) assessor’s office not included in the complaint, and why is it that there was a dismissal of complaint against the other 11 respondents?” he told the Manila Standard.

The Sandiganbayan ordered Villanueva’s dismissal from government service and forfeiture of his benefits.

“I won in the administrative case at the Court of Appeals that directed the city government to pay me back some P4 million in back wages,” he said.

Because of the ruling, he said he was hired anew as the treasurer of Quezon City in 2019.

 “Two weeks ago, I received a copy of my acquittal in the criminal case as ordered by the Supreme Court,” he added.

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