Sandigan acquits ‘Sandigan’ of pork misuse
The Sandiganbayan has acquitted a former Surigao del Norte mayor of misusing the now-missing P700,000 pork barrel funds of the late Senator Robert Barbers in 2004.
In a 27-page decision, the court’s Second Division said there was no direct evidence implicating former Malimono mayor Clemente Sandigan Jr. for malversation of public funds.
Sandigan was accused of misappropriating the funds meant for the construction of a multipurpose hall, a day care center and a barangay hall, as well as the repair of an elementary school and concreting of a road in the poblacion.
The court, however, said there was no proof that Sandigan diverted the Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations to his personal use.
“At most, the prosecution was only able to prove that the subject fund was received by the municipality and is now missing,” the court said, adding that no paper trial for the missing PDAF had been produced.
Sandigan said the PDAF was mistakenly used instead for emergency repairs on an unrelated farm-to-market road damaged by floods. The court said it was “not highly unbelievable that accused Sandigan was not aware of the true nature of the P700,000.00 PDAF.”
For some unexplained reason, the PDAF was credited to the town’s general fund account instead of its trust fund account, the court noted.
The court also cited the renunciation made by one of the individuals who initiated the complaint. Local farmer Patricio Laurenciana became a defense witness during the trial and said the other complainants, then-Vice-Mayor Alejandro Biñan and councilor John Silvosa, made him sign the affidavits against Sandigan.
Laurenciana claimed he was threatened that a case would be filed against him and he would no longer receive assistance from the governor’s office if refused to do so. This was not rebutted by the prosecution.
“The abnegation by one of the private individuals who filed the complaint against the accused [Sandigan] also raises reasonable doubts on the latter’s guilt,” the decision stated.
Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi penned the decision, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Lorifel L. Pahimna.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.