2 ex-Department of Finance execs get 42 years for graft

THE Sandiganbayan Seventh Division has sentenced to 42 to 70 years imprisonment two former ranking officials of the Department of Finance (DoF) who were found guilty of seven counts of graft charges that stemmed from the fraudulent issuance of tax credit certificates to a bus firm in 1997 and 1998.

Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta, chairperson of the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division, penned the 97-page ruling with the concurrences of Associate Justices Zaldy V. Trespeses and Georgina D. Hidalgo.

Uldarico P. Andutan Jr., former Deputy Executive Director of the DoF-One-Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center (DoF-Center); and Raul C. De Vera, former officer-in-charge of the DoF-Center’s Net Local Content/Net Value, were convicted of seven counts each of violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were.

The anti-graft division imposed six to 10 years imprisonment for each count of graft or a total of 42 to 70 years.

Also found guilty for five counts of graft and ordered jailed for 30 to 50 years was DoF-Center senior tax specialist Rosanna P. Diala while Brandy L. Marzan, also a tax specialist, is facing 12 to 20 years imprisonment.

But Andutan, De Vera, Diala and Marzan were not guilty in seven counts of falsification of public documents after the prosecution proved the offense without naming the responsible accused, the anti-graft court said.

Due to old-age dementia which made  former DoF Undersecretary and Center head Antonio Belicena and making him unfit to stand the trial, the anti-graft court archived his cases.

The Sandiganbayan ordered the issuance of alias warrants against private defendants Ramon A. Rodriguez and Joseph Cabotaje who remain at large.

According to the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, the accused DoF-Center officials issued seven tax credit certificates in favor of RA Rodriguez Bus Line between June 1997 and May 1998 totaling P17.834 million.

But, graft investigators alleged that the TCCs were unlawfully issued because the supporting papers submitted for the application were spurious including undated commercial documents without serial numbers as well as unnumbered official receipts and certificates of registration for bus units supposedly issued by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

Likewise, the prosecution was able to present evidence that the tax credit granted to the bus company were inflated to reflect bigger amounts than the actual transactions.

“This resulted in a direct proportional increase in the amount of tax credit given to RA Rodriguez Bus Line. Consequently, unwarranted benefit was given (which) was only possible through accused public officials’ manifest partiality in evaluating the supporting documents,” said the anti-graft court.