Anti-graft court upholds conviction of ex-Sultan Kudarat town execs

MANILA The Sandiganbayan has upheld the conviction of former local officials of Bagumbayan, Sultan Kudarat for misappropriating the amount of PHP2.6 million in public funds.

In a 17-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan affirmed the conviction of Tessie Lagnaoda, barangay captain of Masiag, Bagumbayan; Carlito Abrera, audio visual equipment operator; Rizaldo Solito, security guard at the mayor's office; and Rodrigo Generoso, budget officer, for malversation of public funds, denying their respective motions for reconsideration.

The anti-graft court sentenced Lagnaoda to a six-year jail term.

The court ordered her to pay a PHP47,500 fine and to suffer the penalty of perpetual special disqualification.

On the other hand, the Sandiganbayan sentenced Abrera, Solito and Generoso to two years imprisonment and to pay a PHP15,000 fine each.

In May 2001, the Office of the Ombudsman filed charges against former municipal mayor Gonzalo De Pedro and 22 others for receiving PHP2.6 million in cash advances from 1998 to 1999 and disbursing the amounts as part of the vale scheme authorized by the local officials.

During trial, representatives from the Commission on Audit (COA) detailed the irregularities wherein the accused conspired in securing salary loans in the guise of cash advances sourced from public funds.

The COA found the prevalent "vale" system wherein public funds were disbursed without any official purpose and unsupported by relevant documentation.

The Sandiganbayan upheld its Oct. 5, 2017 decision which convicted Lagnaoda, Solito, Abrera, Generoso, together with Vicente Carlet, municipal treasurer; Alvin Malificiado, acting municipal accountant; Sangguniang Bayan members Corazon Forro and Virgilio Hallegado, Rolando Hapitan, revenue collecting clerk II; Jolito De Pedro, driver at the mayor's office; and Alma Labrador, local civil registrar; for malversation of public funds.

The court convicted Carlet of 37 counts of malversation, 38 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and 45 counts of violation of Section 89 in relation to Section 128 of Presidential Act No. 1445, or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.

Prejudice to the service is not only through wrongful disbursement of public funds or loss of public property. Greater damage comes with the public's perception of corruption and incompetence in the government, the Sandiganbayan order read.

It added that "the crimes would not have been committed if not for their respective positions in the local government of Bagumbayan. As public officials, it is incumbent upon them to prevent the hemorrhaging of government's coffers. Lamentably, they even took advantage of the said system to obtain cash advances for their personal benefit.

Source: Philippine News Agency