Sandiganbayan clears 2 NGO execs in P5-M pork barrel scam case

Sandiganbayan clears 2 NGO execs in P5-M pork barrel scam case

/ 05:05 AM February 28, 2024

GRAFT CHARGES AGAINST BINAY / JULY 14, 2016 Former vice president Jejomar Binay Sr. was formally charge with malversation, graft, and falsification of public documents over the allegedly rigged procurement for the construction of the P2.28-billion Makati Parking Building II at the Sandiganbayan, Quezon City July 14, 2016. INQUIRER PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA


The Sandiganbayan acquitted on Tuesday the officials of a nongovernment organization who were accused of misappropriating P5 million of former Malabon-Navotas Rep. Alvin Sandoval’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for a nonexistent project in 2008.

In a 108-page decision, the antigraft court’s Fourth Division cleared Pangkabuhayan Foundation, Inc. (PFI) president Petronila Balmaceda and PFI secretary Fernando Balmaceda of graft and malversation of public funds charges, saying that prosecutors failed to present evidence to prove them guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.


The court, however, found the pair civilly liable for the “improper implementation” of a ghost livelihood project and ordered them to pay back “jointly and severally” with their coaccused the losses incurred by the government due to the irregular release of public funds totaling P4.5 million.


READ: Court denies Napoles’ plea to reverse conviction over pork barrel scam

The figure is equivalent to the PDAF allocation, excluding the 10 percent in management and service fees charged by the defunct Technology Resource Center (TRC), the supposed implementing agency of the nonexistent project.

In a 2015 resolution, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause that Sandoval’s PDAF was unlawfully channeled to bogus foundations, including PFI, using the TRC as an implementing agency.

This was based on the Ombudsman’s findings that the projects supposedly funded by the lawmaker’s pork barrel fund were nonexistent.

Acquittal counters guilt

In absolving the PFI officers, the Sandiganbayan pointed to the acquittal nearly five years ago of Sandoval and former TRC officials, the PFI executives coaccused in the case.

The Malabon-Navotas lawmaker, along with TRC group manager Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, chief accountant Marivic Jover and budget officer Consuelo Espiritu, were cleared of graft and malversation charges in September 2019.


“Regardless of the undue injury suffered by the government, particularly the constituents of Sandoval, the acquittal of their co-accused public officers contradicts the guilt of Petronila and Fernando, especially so when there is no proof that they themselves acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence,” the court said.

It also noted that proof of conspiracy was not established among the respondents. —KATHLEEN DE VILLA INQ

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TAGS: Pork barrel, Sandiganbayan, Scam

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