The Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Manila has sentenced a former employee of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to several years in jail after finding her guilty of 11 counts of the crime of falsification of public documents by a public officer, which stemmed from false declarations and omissions she had made in her annual Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALNs)
Sentenced to an indeterminate prison term of six (6) months and (1) day of prision correccional as minimum, to eight (8) years and one (1) day of prison mayor as maximum, for each of the 11 counts of falsification was Ester Grafil Sese, a former BOC administrative aide.
In its ruling issued on March 24, 2021, Sese was also ordered by the Manila RTC to pay a fine of P10,000 for each of the 11 counts of falsification.
“It is settled that a SALN is a public document. It bears stressing that the requirement of filing SALN is enshrined in no less than the 1987 Constitution in order to promote transparency in the civil service, and operates as a deterrent against officials bent on enriching themselves through unlawful means,” the Court said in rendering its guilty verdict against Sese.
The criminal cases against Sese were based on a complaint filed by the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) of the Department of Finance (DOF) with the Office of the Ombudsman.
The RIPS is the anti-corruption arm of the DOF.
Sese, who started in the BOC as a utility worker, was charged before the court with the following:
a) Falsely declaring in her SALN for the years 2000 to 2002, her family’s Mitsubishi Lancer as a liability in the amount of P150,000 when, in truth and in fact, it was an asset of the family having been bought in 1997;
b) Falsely declaring in her SALN for the years 2002 to 2007 a much lower acquisition cost of P150,000 for the said Mitsubishi Lancer, when, in truth and in fact, its acquisition cost was P264,839.00;
c) Omitting to declare in her SALN for the year 2002 her family’s residential house and lot located in Paranaque City that was purchased in February 2002;
d) Omitting to declare in her SALN for the year 2004 her family’s Isuzu Elf Aluminum Van that was purchased on 16 August 2004;
e) Omitting to declare in her SALN for the years 2004 to 2007 her family’s Honda Wave Motorcycle that was purchased on 6 April 2004;
f) Omitting to declare in her SALN for the year 2010 her family’s Toyota Hilux acquired on 14 January 2010; and
g) Omitting to declare in her SALN for the years 2012 to 2013 her family’s firearms described as Pistol Girsan Caliber 45 and Pistol Coarm Caliber .45.
Sese was sentenced by the court for violating Article 171, Paragraph 4 of Revised Penal Code.
Her defense relied solely on the testimony of her husband, Rufo Sese, and the pieces of evidence he presented, claiming that they had filled up her SALNs based on their honest belief and good faith.
Sese claimed, among others, that she had no personal knowledge of the existence of some of the properties omitted in her SALNs, that the Toyota Hilux was listed as a liability because it was not yet completely paid, and that the motorcycle was supposedly not hers but was only held in trust for her brother-in-law.
The court was not persuaded by her defense, and pointed out that her claims were implausible, contradictory to each other and cannot be relied upon.
RIPS is encouraging the public to promptly report any suspicious activities and transactions involving government officers or employees working for the DOF or any of the bureaus or agencies under the DOF—BOC, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)—through its Information Against Corruption page which can be accessed using the URL https://www.dof.gov.ph/report-corruption/.