Former Cenro employee gets jail time for graft

REGIONAL Trial Court Judge Estela Alma Singco has convicted an employee of the Community Environment and Natural Resources Office-Department of Environment and Natural Resources (Cenro-DENR) in Cebu City.

Singco found Edwin Atentar, former Cenro special land investigator, guilty of violating Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In her court testimony, complainant Virgilia Seguerra said that she went to Cenro for the processing of the miscellaneous sales application (MSA) for the purchase of 15,088-square-meter lot in Barangay San Roque, Talisay City in 2004.

But since the in-charge officer was not yet available, Atentar reportedly approached her and offered Seguerra to process the application for MSA.

Atentar allegedly asked Seguerra to allow him to inspect the lot, and later demanded P20,000 as initial payment for “survey authority.”

Seguerra requested to reduce the amount and made a partial payment of P8,000 for the survey authority.

The respondent received the money from Seguerra in his office.

In 2005, a record officer of Cenro issued a falsified certification to one Valeriano Ylanan stating that Wayne Seguerra, who is related to Virgilia, “does not have pending miscellaneous sale application.”

About 15 tax declarations were later issued to Ylanan although the declarations bore the same tax declaration numbers under Wayne’s name.

The Office of the Ombudsman earlier pointed out that Atentar had no obligation to receive the money from Seguerra for payment of supposed occupation fee since Atentar’s job is limited only to being a special land investigator and member of the appraisal committee.

Section 3 of RA 3019 provides that it as unlawful for any public officer to directly or indirectly request or receive any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit for himself or for any other person in connection with any contract or transaction.

Atentar was sentenced to imprisonment of six years and one month to 10 years and six months with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

In the judgment, Judge Singco ruled that Atentar even went to Seguerra’s school, where the complainant was teaching, “for no apparent reason than to demand money.”

“This was never refuted by accused. More telling is accused’s persistence in obtaining the money for purported occupation fee although he has no authority to accept the same,” she said. (GMD)
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