Tagbilaran subdivision head guilty of swindling

Capitol Valley subdivision whose lot owners have been mired in questionable documents grabbed the limelight when its homeowners’ association president was convicted of estafa charges filed by one of the residents some five years ago.

Home to more than 500 houses, the subdivision is often in the public eye due to right of way issues, recording of lot payments and boundary disputes since 1998.

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After five years of seeking justice against the swindling machinations of the head of the Bohol Environmental Management Office (BEMO) Natural Resources Management Division and the president of the Capitol Valley Homeowners Association Inc., a 63-year-old public school teacher won a conviction for estafa from the Regional Trial Court (RTC).

Leonilo C. Lafuente was found “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for the crime of estafa by RTC Branch 2 Presiding Judge Jennifer Chavez-Marcos for defrauding Luz Nioda, a relative of his wife of PhP165,000.00 in a botched land deal involving a 300 sq.m. lot located in Capitol Valley, Barangay Dao, Tagbilaran City.

Judge Chavez-Marcos imposed in a decision on June 13, 2017 an “indeterminate penalty of imprisonment of two years and four months in prison correccional minimum to six years and two months of prison mayor minimum plus an additional thirteen years and ten months pursuant to Article 315 (1) of the Revised Penal Code.”

It also ordered Lafuente to indemnify Nioda the amount of PhP165,000.00 as actual damages, PhP100,000.00 moral damages, PhP50,000 exemplary damages and PhP25,000.00 attorney’s fees.

IRATE RESIDENTS

Nioda, who is married to a retired 2nd Lieutenant of the Philippine Air Force and a resident of Barangay Nabuan, Inabanga sought the legal assistance of Atty. J. Albert R. Tinampay of the Tinampay Legal Clinic after Lafuente failed to execute a deed of sale for the purchase of a 300 sq.m. lot at PhP500.00/sq.m., designated as lot no. 3080-B-6-A situated at Capitol Valley, Barangay Dao.

Unresolved land issues at the Capitol Valley subdivision have been in the public eye after residents vented their ire against their own association officials for their failure to straighten out matters going back more than two decades.

Lot buyers belonging to the Capitol Valley Homeowners Association have been up in arms against Lafuente for making them believe that as head of BEMO and as their association president the purchase and title of lots will be facilitated upon payment of an agreed percentage of the total lot price. 

The Chronicle learned that Lafuente is facing several cases before other courts in the province filed by disgruntled buyers who were allegedly bilked by their own association president of their hard earned money.

Despite several complaints of alleged irregularities in the purchase of lots at Capitol Valley, Lafuente remains the Federation president since the homeowners association was formed in the late 90’s.

UNDUE INFLUENCE

According to the prosecution, Lafuente, using his influence as head of the Bohol Environmental Management Office (BEMO) and president of the Capitol Valley Homeowners Association Inc. persuaded Nioda, a relative of his wife to give him PhP165,000.00 for the purchase of a 300 sq.m. lot and deliver the deed of sale upon completion of the agreed full amount.

Nioda filed a complaint for estafa against Lafuente on August 21, 2013 before the Office of the City Prosecutor.

According to the affidavit of Nioda, she made three payments to Lafuente on May 2009 in the amount of PhP100,00.00, June, and July 2009 for PhP60,000.00 and January, 2010 for PhP5,000.00 for a total payment of PhP165,000.00.

The additional PhP15,000.00 was for the land documentation expenses.

All payments were covered by official receipts issued under Capitol Valley Homeowners Association Inc. and the amount personally received by Lafuente, according to the affidavit of Nioda.

Lot buyers belonging to the Capitol Valley Homeowners Association have been up in arms against Lafuente for making them believe that as head of BEMO and as their association president the purchase and title of lots will be facilitated upon payment of an agreed percentage of the total lot price. 

The Chronicle learned that Lafuente is facing several cases before other courts in the province filed by disgruntled buyers who were allegedly bilked by their own association president of their hard earned money.

Despite several complaints of alleged irregularities in the purchase of lots at Capitol Valley, Lafuente remains the Federation president since the homeowners association was formed in the late 90’s.

ACCUSED VERSION

However, Lafuente, in his defense turned the tables on Nioda claiming that  “she was defrauding the association” because of her refusal to pay the difference of PhP1,000.00/sq.m. which is the price of the lot she is presently occupying as compared to the price of the original lot awarded to her at PhP500.00/sq.m.

 Lafuente claimed that Nioda was originally awarded a 300 sq.m. lot in Phase 4 at PhP500.00/sq.m. but constructed a two-storey residential house without the consent and recommendation of the association’s Technical Coordinator on a lot located in Phase 3 which is priced at PhP1,500.00/sq.m.

According to Lafuente, Nioda voluntarily waived her right on the Phase 4 lot and requested to transfer to a vacant lot in Phase 3 designated as lot no. 3080-B-6-A and verbally committed to pay the price difference of PhP1,000.00/sq.m.

NO EVIDENCE

But the court saw otherwise. Judge Chavez-Marcos ruled that Lafuente’s failure to “justify or validly explain his actions” in receiving the amount and executing a deed of sale is an “admission of guilt.” 

According to Judge Chavez-Marcos, on four instances between November 2016 and January 2017, Lafuente was given the opportunity to present his defense but failed to present any witness or documentary evidence but “merely submitted the instant case for decision.”

Nioda, when confronted by the allegations of Lafuente said, in her affidavit that the lot where she built her house was the lot Lafuente pointed to her as the one she bought.

Lafuente is expected to file his motion for reconsideration within the reglementary period before RTC Branch 2.

The heirs of Gregorio Penaflor, Capitol Valley Homeowners Association Inc. represented by Lafuente as association president and the National Housing Authority (NHA) entered into a memorandum of agreement to provide low-income families acquire land under a Community Morgage Program thru the Social Housing Finance Corporation (SHFC).

Among the responsibilities of the Association as provided in the MOA is the collection of monthly amortization from individual members, issue “Certificate of Full Payment” and facilitate the individualization of title and release the titles to members who have fully paid their obligations to the Association. (Chito M. Visarra)



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