Ex-Sarangani governor, provincial exec 'guilty' of malversation
MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan convicted 2 former officials of Sarangani province for malversation of public funds, after they diverted relief goods intended for indigenous tribes and farmers who were devastated by floods in 2001.
Voting 3-2, the Sandiganbayan Third Division found former Sarangani governor Miguel D. Escobar and provincial agriculture officer Romeo S. Miole “guilty beyond reasonable doubt” for giving P1.44 million worth of relief goods to political supporters.
“Wherefore, the Court hereby renders judgment… finding Miguel D. Escobar and Romeo S. Miole guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the component crime of Malversation of Public Funds,” the Sandiganbayan declared in its 23-page decision released on October 13.
Escobar and Miole were sentenced to 10 to 18 years of imprisonment and fined P1.44 million with permanent disqualification from holding any public office in the future.
This is not the first time Escobar was sentenced for fund misuse. In 2002, the Ombudsman ordered his dismissal from service. In 2004, then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo filed graft charges at the Sandiganbayan against Escobar and other officials. He was then sentenced to minimum of 10 years imprisonment in 2012.
13 years ago
In 2001, the provincial government launched Sagip Taniman to distribute sacks of rice for farmers and tribal villages and to replenish hybrid grains destroyed by rains and floods.
In 2002, however, tribal leaders protested that they did not receive any relief and demanded delivery of assistance.
The Commission on Audit then conducted an investigation and found the program "replete with irregularities."
"The annual audit report… reveals that the actual recipients were mostly government officials of Sarangani province and not farmers and fisherfolks who were victims of the flashflood," the Sandiganbayan pointed out.
It also added: "The RIVs (requisition and issuance vouchers) submitted by the OPAG (Office of the Provincial Agriculturist) showed that the sacks of rice were indeed distributed to municipal and barangay officials on June 30, 2002, one week before the barangay election." – Rappler.com