Sandigan junks ex-NEDA exec’s plea

For lack of merit, the Sandiganbayan turned down the plea of a former regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority, who was guilty of sexual harassment, to render community service in lieu of the six-month imprisonment penalty that the court earlier imposed in relation to the crime.

In a 13-page resolution signed on Monday, the anti-graft court denied ex-NEDA regional director Jose Romeo Escandor's motion to render community service instead of serving his six-month jail time penalty that the Sandiganbayan imposed in a ruling dated October 2013, which found him guilty of violating Republic Act 7877, or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act.

The sexual harassment case against Escandor was filed by his female subordinate. The Sandiganbayan rendered a decision in October 2013 in relation to the case, which resulted in his 6-month prison term and a P20,000 penalty.

In 2014, he was also found guilty of the same offense against a female economic development specialist who accused him of making sexual advances for a decade.

In his motion, Escandor manifested to render community service in Barangay Tisa, Cebu City, where he resides, instead of in Sudlon, Barangay Lahug, Cebu City, where NEDA Regional Office No. 7 is located and the crime was committed.

He prayed the court grant his plea since he may no longer serve the imprisonment penalty given he is already 70 years old and that he has diabetes mellitus type 2, asthma with chronic rhinitis, chronic renal insufficiency, and dyslipidemia, which renders him unable to perform manual labor and work outside an office.

Rendering the service in his resident barangay would also allow him to take his maintenance medicines three times a day at home.

He offered to work as a consultant for the barangay for at least two hours daily for six months.

Escandor hinges his plea on the Community Service Act (RA 11362), which gave courts the discretion to require community service in lieu of service in jail for offenses punishable by arresto menor and arresto mayor.

However, according to the Sandiganbayan, while Escandor may be eligible under the law, still, it is the court ultimately that has the discretion of whether or not to extend the privilege to him.

Moreover, the court underscored that the community service program should come not from the accused, which Escandor proposes in the case, but from the barangay captain of the barangay where the crime was committed.

"Thus, it is clear that the community service is to be served at the barangay where the crime was committed and not anywhere else," it said.

"This denial is without prejudice to the filing of an appropriate application by accused Escandor to render community service which is compliant with the Community Service Act and the Guidelines in the Imposition of Community Service as penalty in lieu of imprisonment," the Sandiganbayan added.

Daily Tribune