THE Sandiganbayan sentenced Sibonga Mayor-elect Lionel Bacaltos to six to eight years in prison after it found him guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for receiving an honorarium he was not entitled to.
It barred him from holding any government position and also ordered him to return the P17,512.17 to the Municipality.
The decision, dated May 17, was penned by Justice Alex Quiroz of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, who found sufficient evidence to convict Bacaltos.
Bacaltos admitted to having received the amount from the five percent of the 20 percent of the PhilHealth Capitation Fund allocated as honoraria for municipal health personnel.
The current vice mayor has until June 2 to file a motion for reconsideration with a request for a hearing since the Sandiganbayan did not conduct one.
“I am glad SunStar Cebu is getting my side so the people may know about it. I am confident that the decision will be reversed because I already returned the money as ordered by the Commission on Audit (COA),” Bacaltos said.
COA gave him 10 days to return the money, but he said he gave it back three days after receiving the audit report.
“I have the receipt that I returned the money,” Bacaltos said.
He said his lawyer erred when the latter did not submit the receipt. It was also his fault that he agreed not to have a hearing, believing there was no bad faith on his part, he said.
The complaint was filed by Municipal Councilor Mary Joejie Chan on Oct. 5, 2015 before the Office of the Ombudsman, which forwarded it to Sandiganbayan.
Chan said the honorarium was exclusive to municipal health personnel.
But Bacaltos said he believed he was entitled to the honorarium because he controlled and had supervision over the Municipal Health Office as town mayor.
In 2017, the Provincial Board dismissed Chan’s complaint for lack of evidence. (EOB)