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Economy

Court upholds charges vs agent for hiding wealth

PHOTO BY MIKE GONZALEZ

THE SUPREME Court has upheld the indictment by the Ombudsman of a Customs agent for hiding properties he bought while working for the bureau.

In a Nov. 24 decision posted on the High Court’s website on May 18, the tribunal ruled that Ramir S. Gomez should be charged with corruption for failing to file his net worth statement for 2003.

The Department of Finance Revenue-Integrity Protection Service earlier accused the agent of failing to file the statement, failing to disclose six residential lots in Olongapo City and falsely declaring his handguns, cars and housing loans.

Mr. Gomez had denied the charges. He also said he did not declare his 9mm caliber pistol in his net worth statement because it was being repaired.

The Ombudsman in 2017 charged him with three counts of perjury for allegedly lying about the properties.

The Finance department appealed the indictment as it sought to include more charges for four more counts of perjury of falsification of public documents under the Revised Penal Code. The agent also filed his own petition for review.

It said the Customs agent had willfully lied in his net worth statements for 1996, 2004 and 2005. The Ombudsman rejected the proposed changes. Under the law, a person convicted of perjury faces up to 10 years in prison.

Both the Finance department and Mr. Gomez said the Ombudsman had gravely abused its authority.

In its ruling, the tribunal said it does not generally interfere with the Office of the Ombudsman’s findings.

It added that the other false assertions made by Mr. Gomez had lapsed and he could no longer be prosecuted for perjury.

The discovery of falsification and perjury should have been considered at the time of the filing of his net worth statement since the false assertions were discovered only in 2015, the court said.

“An act of a court or tribunal can only be considered a grave abuse of discretion when such act is done in a capricious or whimsical exercise of judgment as is equivalent to lack of jurisdiction,” it added.

“Disagreement with its findings is not enough to constitute grave abuse of discretion. There must be a showing that it conducted its proceedings in such a way that amounted to a virtual refusal to perform a duty under the law. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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