By Nelson Flores, Ll.B., MSCK
AFTER 25 years of running after the ill-gotten wealth of former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez and his wife Editha, the Office of the Ombudsman has finally done it.
In a statement released to the media Tuesday, the OMB disclosed that on March 1, it has obtained copies of the Transfer Certificates of Title (TCTs) for 19 real properties, all located in Calauan, that formed part of the illegal wealth of the Sanchez’. The properties, which were forwarded Bureau of Treasury of the Department of Finance, are now registered under the name of the Republic of the Philippines.
It will be recalled that in its Decision dated July 18, 2016, the Sandiganbayan ordered the forfeiture of Sanchez’ real properties, a residential building, two units of Mercedes Benz 1987 model 230E series, a 1991 Dodge Caravan van, share in ERAIS lending business including accrued dividends, and PhP246,120.00 in cash and bank accounts.
The court found that as then vice-mayor, then a fourth class municipality, Sanchez was entitled to a per diem ofPhP992.00 per municipal council session, or PhP3,968.00 per month.
As mayor from 1980 to 1981, Sanchez was entitled to a maximum salary of PhP17,724.00 a month; from 1981 to 1986, PhP26,388.0 a month; and from 1988, only PhP10,443.00 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 PhP1,000,000.00 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,” stated the Sandiganbayan.
In explaining the delay in resolving the case, the Court stated that “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.”
Former mayor Sanchez is currently serving seven terms of reclusion perpetua for masterminding the rape and murder Aileen Armenta and her boyfriend Allan Gomez in 1993.