Supreme Court affirms guilt of ex-ARMM Gov. Zacaria Candao
MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has upheld the guilty verdict meted out on former Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Gov. Zacaria Candao for embezzling P21 million in public funds, and restored his original prison sentence of 162 years.
In a resolution, the high court dismissed the appeal of Candao and his fellow accused—his brother and executive secretary Abas Candao and former ARMM disbursing officer Israel Haron—after they failed to present a compelling reason to reverse their conviction for malversation of public funds.
“Acting on the motion for reconsideration of our decision dated Oct. 19, 2011, filed by the petitioners, the court finds no compelling reason to warrant reversal of the said decision which affirmed with modifications the conviction of the petitioners for malversation of public funds,” the high tribunal said.
“Wherefore, the motion for reconsideration filed by the petitioners is denied.”
162 years in prison
The court also restored the original Sandiganbayan sentence on Candao of at least 18 years in prison for each of the nine counts of malversation. This means his total jail time is 162 years.
Candao and his coaccused were also ordered to pay the government the P21,045,570.64 that they pocketed.
It was Commission on Audit Commissioner Heidi Mendoza, then a state auditor, who headed the team that discovered the unlawful release of 52 checks from December 1992 to March 1993 amounting to more than P21 million.
Candao’s signature was on nine of the checks disbursed without the required documents.
In a unanimous decision, the five-member Supreme Court First Division threw out the petition filed by Candao et al. seeking a reversal of the Sandiganbayan ruling of October 2008 that found them guilty.
“In fine, the Sandiganbayan committed no reversible error in holding that the testimonial and documentary evidence presented by the petitioners failed to overcome the prima facie evidence of misappropriation,” the court said.
“There is, therefore, no merit in petitioners’ argument that the Sandiganbayan erred in not applying the equipoise rule,” it added.
The high court explained that based on the principle of equipoise “where the evidence on an issue of fact is in equipoise, or there is doubt on which side the evidence preponderates, the party having the burden of proof loses.”
“The equipoise rule finds application if the inculpatory facts and circumstances are capable of two or more explanations, one of which is consistent with the innocence of the accused and the other consistent with his guilt,” the court said.
Chief Justice Renato Corona and Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo and Maria Lourdes Sereno concurred in the decision penned by Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr.
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