Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte Mayor Rommel Arnado. (Photo courtesy of the Kauswagan municipal government's Facebook account)

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – The local chief executive of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, has affirmed his innocence and welcomed the Supreme Court (SC) ruling that acquitted him from grave coercion charges.

In a press briefing Friday, Mayor Rommel Arnado said his camp received the SC decision that exonerated him early this week.

“The charges seem to be petty, but it still gained some controversy, maybe because of the name I made for the town being recognized internationally, and nationally,” Arnado said.

Arnado was charged with three counts of grave coercion in 2013 filed by the Simbuat family, who claimed they were forced to leave their property in Barangay Tacub.

The family alleged that Arnado used the town's Civil Service Unit to harass them to leave the place.

In 2019, the Sandiganbayan handed out a guilty verdict against Arnado, with a jail time of six months to three years imprisonment.

However, Arnado's party challenged the decision and elevated the case to the High Court.

According to the SC decision promulgated on March 21, 2022, the pieces of evidence presented by the complainants against Arnado were not sufficient to establish the latter's guilt.

“Other than that, his (Arnado's) participation in the alleged acts of coercion is merely presumed from the statement of (Rey) Camanian (a CSU staff), 'utos sa itaas' (orders from above), and from the vehicles used, which did not even establish that they have been used with his authority nor proven to be owned by him (Arnado),” a portion of the SC decision reads. (PNA)