Ex-Nueva Ecija lawmaker acquitted of graft
The Sandiganbayan has acquitted former Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino of graft and malversation charges in connection with the allegedly irregular use of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) amounting to P14.5 million.
In a 94-page decision promulgated on June 1, the antigraft court’s Sixth Division said prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove Antonino’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Antonino’s case involved the allotment of his PDAF, or “pork barrel,” for the procurement of 7,275 sets of livelihood technology kits for his constituents in Nueva Ecija’s fourth district.
The former lawmaker, according to the Ombudsman, “unilaterally chose and endorsed” Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation Inc., a nongovernmental organization that prosecutors said was “operated and/or controlled” by Antonino, as the implementing “project partner” for his livelihood project.
The organization chosen by Antonino, the prosecution said, was “unaccredited and unqualified” to undertake his livelihood program, which they also claimed was a ghost project.
The payment for the livelihood kits was made in two tranches—P13 million on March 19, 2007, and P1.455 million on April 24, 2007.
The now-defunct National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) entered into a memorandum of agreement with the chosen organization of Antonino for the implementation of the project.
Then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, on the other hand, also entered into an agreement with Nabcor for the implementation of Antonino’s project.
Former supervisor guilty
While the court cleared Antonino of graft and malversation, it found Encarnita Cristina Munsod, the then human resource supervisor of Nabcor, guilty of graft and malversation, sentencing her of up to 34 years in prison.
Munsod was also ordered by the court to pay the fine of P14.5 million, or the amount of Antonino’s alleged misappropriated PDAF. She was also ordered to return the same amount to the government.
In clearing Antonino, the court pointed out that while state prosecutors were able to prove Antonino acting with “manifest partiality” when he requested the transfer of his PDAF allocation to Nabcor, it was “different” from what was alleged in the criminal information.
The court cited the alleged unilateral choosing and endorsement of the nongovernmental organization as his “project partner,” which the prosecution “failed to prove.”