Former Iloilo lawmaker, 2 others guilty of graft
ILOILO CITY — The Sandiganbayan has sentenced former Iloilo Rep. Judy Syjuco and two others to up to 16 years in prison for graft in relation to disbursement of P20 million in pork barrel funds in 2005.
In a decision dated Nov. 12 and now posted on its website, the antigraft court’s Special Second Division found Syjuco guilty of two counts of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and sentenced her to a minimum of six years and one month to a maximum of eight years for each count, and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Also found guilty were former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) deputy director general for field operations Santiago Yabut Jr. and Maria Nela Yniesta, president of Tagipusuon Cooperative.
The court dismissed the cases against Syjuco’s husband, former Tesda director general Augusto Syjuco Jr., who died on Jan. 10, 2020.
Attempts to reach the former congresswoman for comment until Friday have failed. But Augusto had then repeatedly denied the allegations and had accused the administration the late President Benigno Simeon Aquino III of political persecution due to his close association with former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
The cases, filed in 2014, stemmed from the disbursement in 2005 of P20 million from Syjuco’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through Tesda, then headed by Augusto, and implemented by Tagipusuon Cooperative, the nongovernment organization the male Syjuco founded.
The funds were intended for a Tesda skills training program but the Syjucos, together with Yabut and Yniesta, entered into a memorandum of agreement using P15 million of the PDAF to buy school uniforms, bags and supplies for public school students in Iloilo’s second district, which Syjuco represented from 2004 to 2010.
The Sandiganbayan said there was misuse in the disbursement of the PDAF, as the Tesda mandate is to provide technical and skills development. It also pointed out that the primary objective of Tagipusuon Cooperative is to plan and implement livelihood projects for women.
Out of the P20 million, only P14,702,181.16 was liquidated and P1,687,181.16 was used for overhead, administrative and other expenses in violation of budget and management rules, the Sandiganbayan said.
“Clearly, public funds in the amount of P20 million from the PDAF of the accused Syjuco was misused when unwarranted benefits were given to Tagipusuon Cooperative, thereby causing undue injury to the government,” it said.
The antigraft court also ordered the convicted persons to pay the government P6,984,996 representing the unliquidated amount and those used for prohibited expenses. —NESTOR P. BURGOS JR.
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