Gov’t reclaims ex-Calauan mayor’s ill-gotten wealth after 25 years

MANILA After more than 25 years, the Office of the Ombudsman has fully recovered the properties found to be ill-gotten by former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez and his wife, Editha Vito-Sanchez.

On March 1, 2018, the Ombudsman obtained copies of the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) of the 19 real properties now registered under the name of the Republic of the Philippines.

The 19 properties, all located in Calauan, Laguna, formed part of the former mayor's properties found to be ill-gotten.

The TCTs have been forwarded to the Bureau of Treasury of the Department of Finance.

In an earlier decision it issued on July 18, 2016, the Sandiganbayan ordered the forfeiture of Sanchez's real properties, a residential building, two units of Mercedez Benz 1987 model 230E series, a 1991 Dodge Caravan van, share in ERAIS lending business including accrued dividends, and PHP246,120 in cash and bank accounts.

The anti-graft court found that as then vice mayor of Calauan, which was then a fourth class municipality, Sanchez was entitled to a per diem of PHP992 per municipal council session, or PHP3,968 per month.

As mayor from 1980 to 1981, Sanchez was entitled to a maximum salary of PHP17,724 a month; from 1981 to 1986, PHP26,388 a month; and from 1988, only PHP10,443, as Calauan was downgraded to a fifth class municipality.

Based on their joint income tax returns from 1986 to 1992, the Sanchez spouses had a total of PHP855,073.88 as declared income after tax during the six-year period.

Grossly disproportionate to this declared income was their lavish lifestyles, taking note that they were able to send their three children to Hurtwood House, an exclusive school in London costing PHP1 million per child; travel expenses for frequent trips abroad to the United States, Italy, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, and Hong Kong; a lavish birthday party with 550 guests at the Manila Hotel; 19 real properties with improvements; three luxury vehicles; a house and lot; business interests in ERAIS Lending; and bank accounts.

We find that respondents' assets and expenses are grossly and manifestly disproportionate to their legitimate income and thus, these assets and the funds used for the disproportionate expenses were unlawfully acquired, and hence, subject to forfeiture, the Sandiganbayan said.

The anti-graft court added: The resolution of this case was delayed by years of attempts at arriving at an amicable settlement, not to mention numerous postponements granted by the court. From the records of this case, it is evident that a large chunk of the blame for the years of delay must lie with the respondents who, for a time, managed to persuade this court to suspend trial in order to give the parties a chance to settle the case amicably. Later on, it became clear that respondents' supposed attempts at compromise were hollow and insincere serving no other purpose than significantly halting the trial. Add to that, this case was also plagued with an extraordinary number of postponements sought by respondents because of their revolving door of lawyers.

Source: Philippine News Agency