The Sandiganbayan Third Division has ordered former Manila Vice Mayor Danilo Lacuna and his wife Melanie to return P9 million worth of government assets that have been deemed to be “unlawfully acquired.”

sandigan - Ex-Manila vice mayor ordered to return P9 million ‘ill-gotten wealth’
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

In a 53-page ruling, the anti-graft court granted the petition of the Ombudsman to forfeit the properties of the Lacunas amounting to P9,003,879.42.

These include a house and lot in Bacood, Sta. Mesa, Manila; a house and lot in Sakolo corner Biyaya Sts. in Sampaloc, Manila acquired in 1999; a lot located in Tagaytay City acquired in 2000; a Honda CRV and a Hyundai Starex; and shares of stocks worth P6,605,000 as indicated in Danilo’s statement of assets liabilities and net worth (SALN).

During his term as vice mayor from 1998 to 2004, Lacuna and his wife acquired properties amounting to P20,707.168.84. However, the anti-graft court ruled that this amount was “manifestly out of proportion” from their joint income of P11,703,289.42.

“This disproportion creates a disputable presumption that the properties acquired from 1998 to 2004 were unlawfully acquired and that the respondent-spouses have the burden of rebutting the presumption,” the decision read.

The Lacuna spouses insisted that they had savings and secured loans to purchase the real properties. Melanie even said she inherited a fishpond, while their children are helping them with their expenses.

But without any proof of actual income, the court said that Danilo must have acquired a “considerable amount of money or property” during his incumbency.

“Even though there was likewise testimony that their children were helping them defray expenses, this is not sufficient to establish any regular financial support coming from their children. Likewise, no justifiable explanation was given regarding the shares of stock which respondent Danilo declared in his SALN,” the court said.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez.

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