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MANILA, Philippines - Two Mindanao congressmen have filed a bill that seeks to strengthen the law on forfeiture of illegal wealth acquired by government officials and employees.
Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who is president of Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines, and his brother Maximo, who represents party-list group Abante Mindanao, authored Bill 4732.
The bill is titled, “An Act strengthening the forfeiture powers of the State, amending for the purpose certain provisions of Republic Act No. 1379, otherwise known as, ‘An Act declaring forfeiture in favor of the State any property found to have been unlawfully acquired by any public officer or employee and providing for the proceedings therefore’.”
“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 such assets which rightfully belong to the people,” the authors said.
They said the state “has the right to recover from public officials or employees, including their transferees or nominees, properties which were not lawfully acquired.”
Due to modern and sophisticated means being employed by corrupt public officials and employees, they are able to spirit away unlawfully acquired properties within an increasingly short period of time, and out of the government’s reach, they said.
“There is thus a need to amend certain provisions of the law for the state to be fully effective in recovering stolen assets by arming its chief enforcer – the Office of the Ombudsman – the necessary powers to run after violators,” they stressed.
Under Bill 4732, a property is presumed illegally acquired by a public officer if it is manifestly out of proportion to his salary and other lawful income.
Failure of a public official or employee to file a statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) within the period prescribed by law would be considered prima facie evidence that such public officer or employee has no property, asset or business interest to declare.
The bill also provides that during a fact-finding investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman, when there is reasonable ground to believe that a public officer or employee has unlawfully acquired property, the Ombudsman, on behalf of the state, may file an adverse claim in the proper Registry of Deeds or appropriate public registry on such asset.
In case there is danger of depreciation in the value of a personal property or spoilage in case of perishable assets that are subject of forfeiture, such property or assets may be sold at public auction pending the resolution of the forfeiture proceeding.
The proceeds of the sale at public auction would be held in trust by the Office of the Ombudsman until the forfeiture proceeding is finally resolved.
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