Ex-Leyte lawmaker, former TRC exec convicted of graft
Former Leyte Rep. Eduardo Veloso and former Technology Resource Center (TRC) legislative liaison officer Rosalinda Lacsamana were found guilty by the Sandiganbayan of graft and malversation over the misuse of Veloso’s P24-million pork barrel funds in 2007 when he was still a lawmaker.
In a decision promulgated Monday, the antigraft court convicted both for two counts of graft and malversation each and sentenced them to six to 10 years in jail for each graft case, and 12 to 18 years for each malversation case.
They were also asked to pay P24.2 million in damages equal to the amount malversed and were perpetually barred from holding public office.
The cases stemmed from a 2017 indictment accusing Veloso of funneling his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, to projects implemented through a nongovernmental organization (NGO) called Aaron Foundation Philippines. These projects later turned out to be ghost projects.
As legislative liaison officer of the now-defunct TRC, Lacsamana supposedly drafted and signed the memorandum recommending the release of Veloso’s pork funds to Aaron.
In doing so, Veloso and Lacsamana, as well as coaccused Antonio Ortiz, Dennis Cunanan, Francisco Figura and Marivic Jover allegedly conspired to allow Aaron to take possession of and misappropriate the funds.
In convicting Veloso and Lacsamana, the court said they gave Aaron “unwarranted benefits and advantage with the undue injury caused to the government in terms of unliquidated PDAF funds.”
The court was also not persuaded by Veloso’s argument that he had merely heard of Aaron from his colleagues in Congress, noting that he was not even able to pinpoint who talked about the TRC and its NGO partners.
“To the court’s view, these are feeble attempts by accused Veloso to put forth a sense of legitimacy in his endorsement of Aaron, in which he undoubtedly fails,” the court said in a 52-page decision.
The antigraft court also found it “unbelievable” that Veloso was not circumspect in assessing Aaron’s qualifications “considering that the projects [were] his only PDAF-funded projects.”
On the other hand, the court acquitted Cunanan, Figura and Jover after the prosecution failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they acted with manifest partiality based only on their signatures in the project documents.
That is not the case with Lacsamana, who was ultimately in charge of monitoring the release of the pork barrel funds and the implementation of the projects.
Not only did Lacsamana fail to justify why Aaron was the selected NGO partner, she also failed to provide evidence on how she validated its accreditation or proved she monitored the projects.
“If she was in good faith in the performance of her duties, she could have at the very least, checked the relevant documentation of Aaron to ascertain its qualifications and capabilities as an NGO partner,” the court said.
“Had she only exerted the littlest effort to request from Aaron registration and financial documents, she would have been alerted by the red flags that Aaron might be a sham NGO.” INQ