Oliver Bugarin 3 0 0 4 min to read

SC upholds a prison sentence for an agro executive who demanded money from farmers.

A former provincial agrarian reform adjudicator was found guilty by the Supreme Court of extorting money and tuna fish from plaintiffs 15 years ago.

The Supreme Court upheld the Sandiganbayan’s 2019 ruling finding Henry Gelacio of the Department of Agrarian Reform Adjudication Board (Darab) Region XII in Kidapawan City, Cotabato, guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and sentencing him to up to eight years in prison in a 21-page decision that was made available online on Monday.

A second accusation of breaking the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees was dropped against him.

In a 2007 case, Gelacio was found responsible for seeking and accepting PHP120,000 and a whole tuna fish in exchange for the issue of a temporary restraining order (TRO).

In upholding Gelacio’s conviction, the SC stated that “nothing will excuse the behavior of the accused-appellant in receiving monetary and non-monetary advantages in exchange for a favorable decision in the administrative matter he was formally overseeing.”

The lawsuit involves several farmers who had open complaints between August and November 2007, including the complainants led by the late Eduardo Garbo.

Gelacio made his demand through the attorneys for the farmers, who claimed that the former Darab executive demanded cash in exchange for a TRO.

In exchange for a draft of the TRO, Garbo twice handed Gelacio himself PHP20,000.

The accused also requested a whole tuna fish, which was brought to him.

To cover the PHP120,000 demand, the other claimants pooled their funds.

Garbo and his fellow claimants claimed that the extortion negatively impacted the farmers’ way of life since they were forced to sell their agricultural machinery and animals, making it impossible for their kids to continue attending school.

The SC invalidated the disbarment complaint Garbo filed against the accused at the time of his passing because it was unreliable and inconclusive.

The Supreme Court (SC) observed that even though the complainant passed away before he could appear before the Sandiganbayan, the prosecution was nevertheless able to call other witnesses, including Herminigilda Garbo, who accompanied her husband in making the payoffs.

“In the Darab case, the accused-appellant should have been given a fair trial without the use of presents, both monetary and non-monetary. The SC found that private complainants had to spend additional and needless personal expenses to get a TRO from the Darab because of the accused-unscrupulous appellant’s solicitations.

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