Seares: Ex-treasurer Dominador Maravillas Jr. of Compostela, Cebu sentenced to reclusion perpetua in 2001, with then mayor Gilbert Wagas; arrested 20 years later, in 2021; secured probation and, after only two years in jail, is now free. Takeaways from the interesting story.

Seares: Ex-treasurer Dominador Maravillas Jr. of Compostela, Cebu sentenced to reclusion perpetua in 2001, with then mayor Gilbert Wagas; arrested 20 years later, in 2021; secured probation and, after only two years in jail, is now free. Takeaways from the interesting story.

[] Not considered by Sandiganbayan in grant of probation was that Maravillas “eluded jail” for two decades after he was convicted 

[] Probation granted after Toledo City RTC in 2023 reduced his penalty to less than six years and he didn’t appeal

[1] DELAYED ARRESTS. Both Gilbert Wagas and Dominador C. Maravillas Jr., then the town mayor and treasurer of Compostela, on October 8, 2001 were found guilty of malversation of public funds under the Revised Penal Code. The penalty: reclusion perpetua in jail; a fine of the sum “stolen,” almost P377,000 (with no additional imprisonment in case they didn’t pay; and perpetual disqualification from public office.

Convicted on October 8, 2001, yet Wagas was arrested only eight years later, highlighted by a commotion during the arrest on November 4, 2009 in a coffee shop at SM City, Cebu City, when he shouted, “Illegal arrest! Shoot me! Shoot me!” He was reportedly screaming when pinned down on the floor by NBI agents.

Maravillas, the low-key partner in the “conspiracy,” was arrested not eight but 20 years later (on February 6, 2021), two months after an alias bench warrant of arrest was issued on December 16, 2020. As to Wagas, then considered the youngest mayor of the country at the time, he died on December 20, 2017, at 54, at the National Bilibid Prison after “a second stroke due to hypertension.”

This first takeaway from the Maravillas story covers only the arrest, not the time it took the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan to dispose of the case since it was filed.

[2] ACTION ON PROBATION REQUEST. The resolution of Sandiganbayan on the Maravillas-Wagas case, promulgated last April 17, 2024 and publicized this week, deals only with Maravillas’s petition for probation, no longer with the malversation case itself, which it resolved two decades ago

But Maravillas’s defense then was that the P377,000 was cash-advanced by then mayor Wagas and no amount from it ever came to his possession. The Sandiganbayan though found a “conspiracy,” which resulted in the “act of one (being) the act of both.”

[3] FAILURE TO SERVE JAIL TIME IMMEDIATELY was apparently not considered by the Sandiganbayan in acting on Maravillas’s application for probation. That Maravillas had eluded arrest for more than 20 years wasn’t discussed in the aspect of his qualifications as would-be probationer. 

Disqualifications listed in the Probation Law of 1976 (Presidential Decree #968), as amended by Republic Act #10707, comprise only of these:

  • sentenced to serve a maximum term of more than six years:

  • convicted of any crime against national security;

  • previously convicted by final judgment of a crime punished by more than

  • six months and one day in jail and/or a fine of more than P1,000;

  • was once on probation under the decree;

  • already serving sentence when the decree became applicable.

[4] TOPPING MARAVILLAS’S COMPLIANCE WITH PROBATION requirements was that six months after his arrest in February 2021, he filed on August 31, 2021 a petition with Regional Court of Toledo City to modify the penalty imposed on him, and Wagas, by the Sandiganbayan two decades earlier.

On October 12, 2023, Toledo RTC reduced Maravillas’s penalty of reclusion perpetua to the indeterminate penalty of two years, four months and one day as minimum to four years, two months and one day as maximum. That’s less than the six years max, the limit beyond which probation is denied. And what was “probationable” was not Sandiganbayan’s reclusion perpetua sentence but Toledo City’s reduced sentence. 

In addition, the Sandiganbayan credited the period of preventive imprisonment Maravillas had served plus his good-conduct time allowance under the law. 

The anti-graft court ordered the police chief of Asturias, Cebu where Maravillas was jailed to compute and see if his sentence was already fully served. Even before that, the court allowed the immediate release of Maravillas “in recognizance” to the custody of a Poblacion, Asturias barangay councilor.

[5] MEETING THE DEADLINE. After the Toledo City RTC reduced Maravillas’s penalty on October 12 last year, he filed the omnibus motion with the Sandiganbayan on October 26, 2023, still within the 15-day period for perfecting an appeal from the Toledo court ruling.

Maravillas was not yet convicted by the Sandiganbayan when the Probation Law (PD No. 968 of 1976) was amended in December 1977, which grants the court the power to grant probation to defendants after conviction and sentencing. It was only in 2001 that Maravillas and Wagas were sentenced to reclusion perpetua in jail.  

[6] RECOGNIZANCE ACT BENEFITS MARAVILLAS. The Recognizance Act of 2012 also benefits the convicted petitioner as he included in his omnibus motion before the Sandiganbayan a “recognizance” by one Josias Aguanta Penalosa, an elected councilor of Poblacion, Asturias, where Maravillas resides.

The Sandiganbayan noted Maravillas’s “advanced age” (without specifying how old he is) which “minimizes the probability of flight if released on recognizance.” Thus the court ordered the immediate release of Maravillas “on recognizance” to Penalosa’s custody.

[7] SPECIAL PRIVILEGE TO ‘PENITENT’ OFFENDERS. The Sandiganbayan cites the purpose of probation, “a special privilege granted by the state to penitent qualified offenders who immediately admit their liability and thus renounce their right to appeal.”

Maravillas didn’t appeal the Sandiganbayan conviction: at least it wasn’t known if he did as he was not arrested, not until 20 years after the conviction. But disqualification by appeal applies apparently to the appeal from the RTC that modifies the original penalty, which in Maravillas’s case is the Toledo City RTC.

The major purposes of the Probation Law include helping offenders “develop themselves into law-abiding and self-respecting individuals” and assisting them “in their reintegration with the community.” It is “rehabilitation outside prison,” without “the stigma of incarceration record.”


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