SC clears ex-Cavite governor Maliksi, 2 others of graft

MANILA – The Supreme Court has cleared former Cavite Governor Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi and two others of graft charges over the purchase of a multi-million-peso relocation site used in the Light Rail Transit Line 1 (LRT-1) extension project.

In a 16-page ruling dated September 26, 2018 but released to the media only on Tuesday, the high court reversed the Ombudsman’s 2017 decision to charge Maliksi, former Cavite provincial accountant Doris Ensomo and real estate broker Cynthia Montesclaros with violation of section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, after finding that the Ombudsman failed to show “the presence of evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence or manifest partiality.”

Evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence and manifest partiality are the three modes of committing graft under the said law.

The Ombudsman filed the charge with the Sandiganbayan in February this year.

The case stemmed from a relocation project where the LRT Authority shelled out P500 million in 2008 for the relocation of 2,000 families who would have been displaced by the construction of the LRT-1 South Extension Project, which will extend the LRT line to Bacoor.

Several individuals accused Maliksi of illegally paying P17 million in tenants’ disturbance compensation and broker’s commission to Montesclaros, on top of the P125-million purchase price.

Montesclaros acted as the attorney-in-fact of the landowners who sold 14 lots in General Trias, Cavite to the province in 2009.

Maliksi was also accused of violating the Tax Code when he paid P9.4 million in capital gains tax and documentary stamp taxes when the Code specifies that the seller should pay these taxes.

SC ruling

In clearing Maliksi and the two others, the SC said the Ombudsman failed to prove there was evident bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence in the payment of tenants’ disturbance fee because it did not cite any specific law, regulation or ordinance prohibiting the payment of tenants’ disturbance compensation by a provincial government.

“That the payment of tenants’ disturbance compensation was patently ill motivated or grossly negligent cannot be determined with certainty absent a specific provision of law prescribing the proper procedure for such payment or prohibiting (sic) under the circumstances,” the Court said.

The Court also ruled the Ombudsman failed to prove facts to show “clear bias” in favor of Montesclaros in the payment of her broker’s commission, even if she was not a registered broker.

In addition, the Court recognized the agreement between the province of Cavite and the sellers of the land as to who should pay for the capital gains and the documentary stamp taxes, justifying it as part of the freedom to enter into any contract.

The Court also noted that Maliksi approved the payments after consulting the provincial appraisal committee regarding the purchase price and the provincial legal officer regarding the expenses that went with the purchase of the land.

“[I]t is clear that the OMB’s failure to demonstrate the presence of evidence bad faith, gross inexcusable negligence, or manifest partiality in each of the three payments discussed above amounts to a grave abuse of discretion warranting the reversal of its finding of probable cause,” the Court ruled.

Construction of phase 1 of the LRT-1 South Extension Project started in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2023.

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