The Sandiganbayan has again convicted retired brigadier general Jose Ramiscal Jr. for anomalies hounding the Armed Forces of the Philippines Retirement and Separation Benefit System’s land purchases in the late 1990s.
The court’s Seventh Division has handed down prison terms of 123 to 216 years on Ramiscal, former president of the now-defunct military retirement fund, and lawyer Nilo Flaviano for 12 counts each of graft and falsification.
The case arose from the misdeclaration of the selling price of 12 lots in General Santos City in 1997, cheating the government of P3.506 million in capital gains and documentary stamp taxes.
Although RSBS bought the 999-square meter parcels for P10,500 per square meter, or P10.49 million for each property, the agency used falsified deeds of sale that reflect a purchase price of only P3,000 per square meter, or P2.997 million for each property.
This meant that only P389,610 in taxes were paid for each property, instead of P681,817.50, leading to a discrepancy of P292,207.50 per lot or a total of P3.506 million in foregone revenue.
“The obvious intention was to be able to transfer the title of the subject properties from the sellers to the AFP-RSBS without paying the proper taxes due,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta.
“The considerable discrepancy in the selling prices corresponded to the amount that should have been paid to the government in taxes but never made it there,” it added.
The court said Flaviano, the attorney-in-fact of the land sellers, was “the obvious perpetrator of this fraud” for registering the properties in AFP-RSBS’s name using falsified unilateral deeds of sale.
But, it noted Ramiscal’s admission that he knew the land was purchased at P10,500 per square meter and not P3,000 as reflected in Flaviano’s falsified deeds.
Yet, the court found “no evidence of any effort on the part of AFP-RSBS to rectify this blatant transgression” and continued to fully pay for the properties.
For the court, this meant Ramiscal and the late GenSan Project manager Wilfredo Pabalan effectively “condoned the defraudation of the government.”
“Prompt and proper action on their part would have made it impossible for accused Flaviano to carry out his ploy; the reverse is also true—in failing to so act, they proved to be willing participants therein,” the decision read.
Although the Supreme Court cancelled the titles over the concerned properties in a January 16, 2013 decision, the Sandiganbayan said this did not extinguish the criminal liability of Ramiscal and Flaviano because it concerned the issue of their “deliberate failure to pay” the correct taxes.
The charges against Pabalan were dismissed in November 2016 following his death.
Meanwhile, the court did not find evidence to hold the land sellers liable for the fraud.
Acquitted were Alex Guaybar, Oliver Guaybar, Jonathan Guaybar, Joel Teves and Jose Rommel Saludar, as well as Miguela Cabi-ao whose death has yet to be proven. The other land sellers, Mad Guaybar, Jack Guiwan, Martin Saycon and Jolito Poralan, died before the trial concluded.
According to available court records, Ramiscal was previously convicted through three Sandiganbayan verdicts in June 14, 2011, July 19, 2016 and May 15, 2017 over similar anomalies concerning P1.3 million, P250.32 million and P24.2 million in injury to the government.
Sentences previously handed down by the court total 18 to 30 years for three counts of graft, 14 years and 10 months to 20 years for one count of malversation through falsification, and two to six years for one count of estafa through falsification.
In the July 19, 2016 malversation verdict, Ramiscal was also ordered to indemnify the government of a P250.32-million discrepancy in the declared value of four parcels of land in Calamba City, Laguna.
Meanwhile, Ramiscal was acquitted in a P2.03-million graft case and a P4.23-million graft case in two decisions on November 26, 2009 and June 16, 2011.
The anomalies in AFP-RSBS’s land purchases were the subject of a Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry in 1998.
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