Ex-Bohol mayor slapped with P10,000 fine for collecting illegal fees

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The Sandiganbayan has ordered the former mayor and municipal treasurer of Carmen, Bohol, to each pay a P10,000 fine for illegally collecting fees totaling P110,700 from business permit applicants in 2009.

In a recent decision, the court’s 2nd Division found former Mayor Manuel Molina and former municipal accountant Fulgencion Paña guilty of illegal exaction under Article 213 of the Revised Penal Code.

The illegally collected amount was already refunded to the business permit applicants.

The case arose from the collection of an additional P300 despite the absence of a municipal ordinance authorizing the collection. Prosecutors showed certified true copies of more than 420 official receipts reflecting the illegal fees.

The court noted that Molina admitted in his counter-affidavit that he approved a disbursement voucher for the refund of the excess amount.

Molina argued that the refund meant there was no amount misappropriated for personal interest. But, the court noted that “the act of demanding the unauthorized amount” has already been consummated by the mere fact that the applicants made payments.

Molina tried pinning the blame on Peña, since he was responsible for local revenue collection.

But, the court said that as Peña’s superior, Molina was “the invisible hand behind the collection of the additional charge from business permit applicants.”

It noted that the business plates bore image and signature.

“It is precisely on the basis of such power of general supervision and control that it would be bordering on the unlikely that the business plates patently bearing his image and signature could be procured and distributed without his consent or knowledge and the resultant cost… borne by taxpayers,” read the decision.

The court also pointed out that under Section 444(b)(3)(iii) of the Local Government Code, it is the mayor’s responsibility to “ensure that all taxes and other revenues of the municipality are collected.”

“To that end, therefore, his role in such pecuniary activity of the municipality elevates to a legal certainty,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera, Jr.

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