A FORMER Koronadal City mayor may spend around six to eight years in jail for hiring a private lawyer to notarize documents related to the City Government's purchase of a property.

The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division found former Koronadal City mayor Fernando Miguel guilty of graft after he tapped his lawyer, Joffrey Montefrio, to notarize the deed sale of the land intended as the future location of the City Hall building.

Montefrio received P419,000 from the City Government in March 2004 as payment.

But Ombudsman prosecutors presented documents from the Commission on Audit (COA) showing that the payment of notarial fees was irregular and violated the COA Circular 98-002.

Under Circular 98-002, a government entity is prohibited from hiring private lawyers except under extraordinary or exceptional circumstances and subject to the written conformity of the Solicitor General or the Government Corporate Counsel.

“Having been City Mayor for many years already, prior to the purchase of the Plomillo property by the City of Koronadal, accused Miguel knew or ought to have known that the legal services of the Provincial Legal Office can be solicited and availed of for free,” the decision read.

Witnesses also testified during the trial that the services of the Provincial Legal Office were readily available to notarize the documents for free.

The anti-graft court said that Miguel’s action “undoubtedly caused undue injury to the government" as he "gave unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference" to Montefrio who is a private party.

City Treasurer Eufrosino Inamarga and City Accountant Imelda Tamayo were acquitted due to insufficiency of evidence. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Jan Keanu Plantilla, UST intern/Sunnex)