Sep 212014
Stiffer fines and a longer prison sentence await any government employee who helps a public official transfer properties acquired through ill-gotten wealth, under the amendments proposed by two lawmakers to Republic Act 1379 or the law forfeiting these possessions in the State’s favor.

House Bill 4732, filed by Reps. Rufus Rodriguez and Maximo Rodriguez Jr., seeks to strengthen the powers of the State in the recovery of ill-gotten wealth amassed by public officials or employees by providing the Office of the Ombudsman the necessary powers to run them.

Under the proposed measure, any public officer or employee who will transfer or convey any unlawfully acquired property after the amendments to RA 1379 take effect shall be imprisoned for a term of not less than one year and one day but not more than six years, or be slapped with a fine not exceeding twice the amount of the property transferred or conveyed, or be penalized with both.

The government employee who connived with the official proven to have acquired properties through ill-gotten wealth also faces perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of any prohibited interest.

HB 473 likewise proposes that the same penalties be imposed upon any person who shall knowingly accept such unlawful transfer or conveyance, with the transport being deemed void ab initio or from the start.

The current law only imposes jail time of a maximum of five years, a P10,000 fine or both penalties for a government employee found to have transported any unlawfully acquired property.

Out of State’s reach

In the bill’s explanatory note, the lawmakers said RA 1379 needs to be strengthened since corrupt public officials and employees are now able  to spirit away unlawfully acquired properties within increasingly short period of time—and eventually out of the State’s reach—by using a modern technology and other sophisticated means.

“The proposed amendments should serve as an effective deterrent to prevent public officials or employees from concealing, destroying or dissipating their unlawfully acquired properties and safeguard the interest of the State in the recovery of said assets which rightfully belong to the people,” they said.

Other proposed amendments to RA 1379 stated in the bill include inserting two sub-provisions under Section 2 to read as follows:

“SEC. 2-A. Prima Facie Presumptions – (1) Whenever any public officer or employee has acquired during his incumbency property or properties which are manifestly out of proportion to his salary, as such public office or employee, and to his other lawful income, and the income from other legally acquired property/properties, said property shall be presumed prima facie to have been unlawfully acquired.”

“(2) Failure of a public official or employee to file a Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) within the period prescribed by law from date of assumption to office shall be prima facie evidence that said public officer or employee has no property, asset or business interest to declare at the beginning of his public service.”

“(3) Failure of a public officer to file a Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth for any particular year after assumption to office shall be prima facie evidence that the public officer or employee has no other information to declare outside of his declaration in his prior submissions, without prejudice to any liabilities that may have been incurred under existing laws.”

“Sec. 2-B. Adverse claim prior to filing of petition – When, during or after the fact-finding investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman, it appears that there is reasonable ground to believe that a public officer or employee has unlawfully acquired property, the said office, on behalf of the Republic of the Philippines, may file an Adverse Claim in the proper Registry of Deeds, or the appropriate Public Registry, setting forth a description of the property/ties covered by the fact-finding investigation, and the claim of Right of Interest of the State therein as possible subjects of forfeiture.”

Immunity from criminal prosecution

The lawmakers also proposed another sub-provision under Section 5 to read as follows: “SEC. 5-A. Authority to sell pending forfeiture proceeding. – In case there is danger of depreciation to the value of the personal property or spoilage in case of perishable properties, upon motion filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the proper court, the personal property subject of forfeiture may be sold at public auction pending the resolution of the forfeiture proceeding.  The proceeds of the sale at public auction shall be held in trust by the Office of the Ombudsman until the forfeiture proceeding is finally resolved.”

Furthermore, the bill provides that the Ombudsman, in place of the Solicitor General under the current law, may grant immunity from criminal prosecution to any person who testifies to the unlawful manner in which the government official suspected of amassing ill-gotten wealth has acquired any of the property in question in cases where such testimony is necessary to prove violations of the law.

HB 4732 is now pending before the House committee on the revision of laws. — BM, GMA News

 Leave a Reply