Anti-graft court buries ex-Samar mayor over alleged cemetery lot purchase
by Allan Yves Briones
The unauthorized purchase of a lot in 2008, in the guise of expanding the municipal cemetery, has cost former Samar mayor Alejandro Abarratigue not only his freedom, but also the chance to ever hold public office.
In a decision promulgated by the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division last November 8, it held that Abarratigue is guilty of graft for purchasing a lot without authority from the Sangguniang Bayan (SB) of Hinabangan, Western Samar.
According to the anti-graft court, the former mayor violated Section 22(c) of the Local Government Code which prohibits the mayor from entering into contracts without prior authorization from the local council.
In his defense, Abarratigue argued that there was, in fact, such authorization from the SB: Resolution 23-2007 and Municipal Development Council Resolution 01, s. 2007.
To his detriment, however, the court’s interpretation differs significantly, explaining that Resolution 23-2007 was an appropriation ordinance for the 2008 budget, not a clear authorization to purchase the lot.
“It merely allocated for the expansion of municipal cemetery,” the court said. “The term expansion cannot be interpreted to be synonymous with purchase.”
Similarly, the latter resolution provides no authorization.
“It cannot be deemed as the authority contemplated by law as it did not originate from the Sangguniang Bayan and as testified by Abarratigue himself, the members of the MDC merely acknowledged the expansion of municipal cemetery in said resolution,” the decision read.
For violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the former mayor will be serving up to 10 years in prison, in addition to being perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
Also convicted alongside Abarratigue are former municipal treasurer Raul Tapia and former administrative officer Analiza Bagro.