Sandiganbayan OKs plea bargain with ex-DPWH exec, orders return of P1.4 million
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has approved the plea bargaining between the Office of the Ombudsman and a former Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official accused of graft.
In the decision dated May 7, the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division granted the deal struck by state prosecutors with Juanito Padilla Abergas, former Central Visayas director of the DPWH, provided that he would return around P1.484 million of the public funds he was accused of misspending.
Padilla is facing three criminal cases before the anti-graft court. He was accused of releasing reimbursements for and collecting his extraordinary and miscellaneous expenses, local travel expenses, and actual and/or incidental expenses that were used for activities not related to his work.
According to the Information filed against Padilla, he used the allocations and public funds from 2002 to 2005 to pay for personal hotel bills, meals, drinks, grocery items, and even to buy “pasalubong” — or souvenirs.
Instead of being sentenced for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, he would be convicted for the lesser offense of failure of an accountable officer to render accounts.
The Sandiganbayan explained that the decision was reached as the prosecution was also unable to present several original disbursement vouchers that resulted in the striking out of some exhibits — which would have been in favor of Padilla.
“It is not denied that during the trial, the originals of 52 Disbursement Vouchers subject to these cases were not produced by the Prosecution, resulting even to the exclusion of exhibits […] which in the end, would clearly have an adverse effect on the judgment to be imposed,” the court said in the decision penned by Seventh Division chair Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Gomez-Estoesta.
“The prosecution, however, is aware of its flaw and by the time that it terminated with the presentation of its evidence has only produced four photocopies of Exhibits ‘AA’, ‘BB’, ‘CC’, and ‘DD’, being the only Disbursement Vouchers admitted by the Court in its Resolution dated September 28, 2018,” it added.
For the first information, Padilla is ordered to pay a sum of P464,430.94; P603,459.55 for the second case; and P416,515.70 for the third.
He will also have to pay a penalty of P6,000, as prescribed f0r convictions due to the failure of an accountable officer to render accounts.
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