Sandiganbayan acquits ex-PCGG chair Sabio of graft, malversation
A division of Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Presidential Commission on Good Government chairperson Camilo S. Sabio on Wednesday of graft and malversation for allegedly pocketing almost P12 million worth of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division acquitted Sabio of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and two counts of malversation of public funds.
“Whereby, all premises considered, and for insufficiency of evidence engendering reasonable doubt, judgment is hereby rendered acquitting herein accused Camilo Sabio y Loyola from the charge of violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019 and malversation…So ordered,” the resolution penned by Associate Justice Maria Cristina Cornejo read.
Three other associate justices of the Fourth Division concurred: Jose Hernandez, Rodolfo A. Ponferrada, Michael Frederick Musngi.
The Ombudsman filed charges against Sabio in 2011 after it found on its investigation that he allegedly converted to his own personal use P10.35 million that the PCGG received as remittances from the Mid-Pasig Land Development Corp. and from the sale of the A. Soriano Corp., both firms sequestered from the Marcoses.
The 78-year-old former government official was also accused of embezzling cash advances worth P1.6 million while being PCGG chair. The cash advances consisted of accommodation, contingency funds, litigation fees and other related expenses in connection with his trip to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
The Ombudsman said that while Sabio went to Malaysia in a government sanctioned business trip, he failed to liquidate the amount despite repeated demands made by the Administration and Finance Department of the PCGG.
In its ruling, the Court said that the prosecution has failed to present evidence that the unliquidated amount went directly to Sabio, noting that the cash advances were for the operating expenses of the commission.
“Misappropriation or conversion of funds by Sabio is too gray an area to consider in both cases particularly when we consider the material testimonies of Prosecution witness [PCGG cashier officer Primitiva] Millado that on the face of the checks, there is no showing that the accused indorsed or deposited the checks in his name or on his account…”
“As in fact, she does not show know whether accused Sabio received those checks, the checks having been given by her to Paras; and of Prosecution witness [IRC Group of Companies chief accountant Corazon] Escorpizo who confirmed that the cash advances, though received by Sabio, were not for the personal use of Sabio but will be used as financial assistance and for the operating expenses of the PCGG,” the ruling read.
The sequestered Mid-Pasig Land Development Corporation is under the IRC Group of Companies.
Meanwhile, the Court said that the prosecution failed to adduce evidence that Sabio used the P1.5 million for his personal gain during his trip in Malaysia.
“When the absence of funds was not due to personal use, the presumption is completely destroyed. The taking or conversion of public funds for personal use must be affirmatively proved,” the court said.
The court said that while the unliquidated funds remained unaccounted for, the prosecution has failed to link the funds directly to Sabio.
“In the three cases, the prosecution has failed to fulfill the test of moral certainty and establish a degree of proof necessary to support a conviction. Even if the defense evidence may be weak, the Prosecution must stand on the strength of its own evidence. Any reservation of guilt of the accused, as in these cases, given the totality of the evidence adduced, the Court should entertain no other alternative but to acquit him,” the court said.
Upon the promulgation of judgment, Sabio expressed his elation on the court’s ruling, saying that finally, he was vindicated after suffering from stroke during the pendency of the case. CDG
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