2 former gov't employees convicted of graft for land scam

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan 4th Division found two former government employees guilty of graft for a land scam, with a jail sentence of 6 to 10 years.

Saidona Abas, from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) in Soccsksargen, and Benigno Daga, geodetic engineer of the then-Bureau of Lands (now Land Management Bureau) in Cotabato City, were convicted for allowing the transfer of a 19.69-hectare farm in Upi, Maguindanao, to bogus tenants.

In 1983, Virginia and Filomeno Besas lost their land under the government's Operation Land Transfer, after Abas and Daga authorized the release of the title to a certain Carlos Indong. The Besa couple died in 2006.

The decision states that Abas and Daga were found guilty of fraud and undue injury to the Besas. The anti-graft court ordered the convicted defendants to return the property, or pay its full value to the Besas' heirs.

Abas and Daga were also perpetually disqualified from holding another position in government.

The anti-graft court noted that the two "admitted to signing as witnesses" on affidavits filed by the alleged tenants, even if the Besas were actually tilling the land.

The case was ordered archived, pending the arrest or surrender of 16 other accused who remain at large.

These include former DAR Soccsksargen regional director Monib Dimaporo, employees Narciso Casser, Constancio Casser, Ubong Akoy, Carlos Indong, Seki Bansuan, and Rolando Orig; Victorio Morales of the then-Bureau of Lands; Hernani Redosendo of the Land Bank of the Philippines; and Adam Asi of the Maguindano Register of Deeds.

It also included private respondents Sema Lamponi, Camlon Maulana, Abdulkadil Abas, Melencio Sangama, Anastacio Rocas, and Madatu Aliudin.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz, and concurred with by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Bayani Jacinto. – Rappler.com