Aquino ally Acosta, mom appeal graft conviction
Presidential adviser on environmental concerns Secretary Nereus “Neric” Acosta and his mother appealed their graft conviction by the Sandiganbayan over the misuse of Acosta’s pork barrel funds to benefit the cooperative of her mother.
In a joint motion for reconsideration before the anti-graft court Fourth Division, Acosta asked the court to reverse its decision convicting him and his mother of the criminal offense of graft by giving undue preference to Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative (BVPC), where his mother, former Manolo Fortich mayor Socorro Acosta, was director and cooperator.
Acosta coursed P5.5 million of his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), the now-defunct pork barrel fund, to the cooperative in 2002.
Acosta said his PDAF coursed through his mother’s municipality for the benefit of the cooperative was allowed under the Local Government Code because it was in the form of a trust fund.
He added that his mother’s municipality was made a beneficiary of the trust fund simply because the cooperative was based there.
Acosta added that there was no manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence in the grant of his PDAF to the cooperative to which he gave undue preference just because his mother was an original cooperator.
Acosta said that when his mother Socorro became Manolo Fortich mayor, she was no longer a cooperator when the cooperative received the fund in July 2002.
He said the prosecution failed to present any document that would prove that his mother held any financial and pecuniary interest in the cooperative, or was a chairperson of the cooperative when the latter received the fund.
In appealing her graft conviction for having financial and pecuniary interest in the cooperative, then mayor Socorro said she ceased to become an incorporator and chairman when she became mayor of Manolo Fortich in 2001.
She added that the fact that she was the original cooperator and first chairperson did not mean she remained connected to the cooperative as mayor.
The prosecution also failed to present documentary evidence that Socorro was a director, officer or member of the cooperative when it received Acosta’s P5.5 million PDAF in July 2002, she added.
Also, then mayor Socorro could not have had discretion over the use of the funds because it was a trust fund specifically for the purpose of benefiting the cooperative.
“To reiterate, the prosecution failed to show beyond any cavil of doubt that accused Socorro possessed any interest in BVPC when the P5.5 million PDAF was granted and spent by BVPC to justify the conclusion that accused Nereus deliberately appropriated his congressional funds to benefit his mother directly as the chairman, director or officer of the cooperative,” their motion read.
Secretary Acosta was convicted of one count of graft and was sentenced to six to 10 years in prison and was perpetually barred from holding any public office.
Acosta, who holds a Cabinet position and is the general manager of the Laguna Lake Development Authority, is a member of the ruling Liberal Party of President Benigno Aquino III.
The Acosta matriarch Socorro was convicted of two counts of graft for causing undue injury to government and having financial and material interest in his son’s PDAF coursed to the cooperative.
She was sentenced to six to 10 years imprisonment as well as perpetual disqualification from public office for each count of graft.
In an interview when the decision was promulgated, Acosta said he saw no political color in the court conviction even though he was a member of the Cabinet of Aquino.
“This was a 15-year-old case already… The trial went on for seven years… This has nothing to do whether you’re an LP, this has nothing to do with being in the official family ng Pangulo (of the President),” Acosta said.
“So sa akin, walang political color ‘yan (For me, there is no political color here),” he added.
Acosta said he would study the court decision why he was convicted on one count but acquitted in two other cases of graft.
His first acquittal on graft involved an allegation that he caused undue injury to government and committed manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence, when in 2001 he gave undue preference to Bukidnon Integrated Network of Home Industries (Binhi) by transferring a solar dryer tunnel purchased with his P2.5 million PDAF to his mother’s municipality for Binhi’s use.
Acosta’s father Juan Acosta and aunt Ma. Nemia Bornidor were incorporators of Binhi.
Prosecutors claimed Acosta’s alleged act deprived the government of the beneficial use of the solar dryer, which is deemed a public property.
His second graft acquittal involved an allegation that in 2001, he caused undue injury to government and committed manifest partiality, evident bad faith, and gross inexcusable negligence, by giving preference to Binhi when he coursed P2.5 million of his PDAF as financial assistance to the organization using the Talakag municipality as a conduit.
The court said the prosecution failed to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt. IDL
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