Sandiganbayan acquits ex-CamSur mayor Bongalonta of graft


For the prosecution’s failure to prove a graft case, the Sandiganbayan has acquitted a former Camarines Sur town mayor accused of denying the back wages of a municipal accountant 13 years ago.

In a 20-page decision dated last Nov. 23, the anti-graft 7th Division cleared former Pili mayor Tomas Bongalonta Jr. of the graft case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman for reportedly depriving municipal accountant Eileen D. Ceron salaries and benefits, amounting to PHP955,285.06.

“The prosecution did not argue that the accused had intentionally given any person unwarranted benefits, advantage, or preference, but instead focused on its theory that his acts caused undue injury towards Ceron by depriving her of her back wages, emoluments, and other benefits after her dismissal was deemed illegal or void,” the Sandiganbayan said in its ruling.

“In this case, upon her reinstatement as municipal accountant of Pili, Camarines Sur, private complainant Eileen Ceron bewailed the non-payment of her back wages and other benefits as the result of having been dismissed from the service by the accused. Later, however, it was divulged that Ceron’s money claims have already been fully settled,” it added.

“The unbidden fact that Ceron’s back wages and other benefits have been paid in full is bolstered by Ceron herself who cited said settlement as part of her motivation in filing a motion to withdraw the complaint before the Deputy Ombudsman,” the anti-graft court said.

Court records showed that Bongalonta filed administrative and criminal cases before the Ombudsman against Ceron, accusing her of dishonesty, grave misconduct, and estafa.

While the criminal case was eventually dismissed by the Pili, Camarines Sur Regional Trial Court Branch 31, the administrative case prospered.

On Nov. 9, 2004, the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon issued a decision, recommending that Ceron be suspended from office for six months without pay. This was approved by then Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez.

Ceron moved for the reconsideration but it was denied by Fernandez in an order dated Mar. 28, 2005.

She apparently complied with the suspension order and did not report for work.

While Ceron has only been given partial payment of her claims sometime in 2007 during the administration of former Mayor Alexis San Luis, the Sandiganbayan said, the same were fully satisfied on Feb. 8, 2013 and her receipt of a check in the amount of P188,752.15.

“Having thus found that no undue injury exists, the elements of the crime charged leave much to be desired,” the anti-graft court said.