Ex-QC treasurer faces 10-year jail term for graft

MANILA -- The Sandiganbayan has sentenced a former officer-in-charge of the Quezon City Treasurer's Office to a maximum of 10 years in prison after being found guilty of enforcing taxes and ordering the sale of property titled to the National Housing Authority (NHA) and being used by the Manila Seedling Bank Foundation Inc. (MSBFI).

In a 40-page decision dated November 15, the court's Seventh Division found Edgar T. Villanueva guilty of violating Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Villanueva is perpetually disqualified to hold public office and found civilly liable to MBSFI for PHP1.7 million representing lost monthly rental income and lost average monthly sales at the time of its eviction.

"It is palpable that the actions of the accused inflicted substantial damage to MSBFI in the form of lost business income. The accused imposed the collection of unpaid real estate against MSBFI, the padlocking of the subject property in 2012 was effected due to said taxes which resulted in the immediate closure of the business of MSBFI and said the property was eventually sold through public auction. Undue injury to MSBFI was thus manifest through lost business income," the court said.

MBSFI previously occupied a seven-hectare property owned by the NHA located at Diliman, Quezon City and is bounded by Quezon Avenue, Agham Road, and Epifanio de los Santos Avenue.

MSBFI was granted usufructuary rights over said property under Proclamation No. 1670 dated Sept. 19, 1977, for 50 years.

In the exercise of its usufructuary rights, MSBFI, engaged in the business of a plant nursery, garden center, pet shop, flower center and offered various services such as tree landscaping, leased part of the property to tenants.

In 2011, Villanueva, then OIC City treasurer, enforced the collection of real property tax on the property held by MSBFI, which led to city officials cordoning off said property sometime in July 2012.

The property was levied and eventually sold to the Quezon City government at a public auction.

MBSFI ,in filing the case against Villanueva, claimed the latter knowingly proceeded with the levy of the property without the required prior notice of assessment having been served upon MSBFI and despite knowing that the actual property is titled in the name of the NHA, a government instrumentality, exempt from paying taxes and whose properties are exempt from levy.

Source: Philippines News Agency