MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has convicted 3 former La Union Water District officials of graft for the release of P7.25 million in unauthorized cash allowances in 2009.
The Sandiganbayan sentenced former Metro La Union Water District (MLUWD) general manager Felipe Picazo, administrative division manager Virginia Laroco, and cashier Evangelina Flores to 6 to 10 years in jail, and ordered their perpetual disqualification from public service.
They were also held jointly liable to the MLUWD for damages of P7.25 million, equivalent to the amount that was illegallydisbursed.
Associate Justice Edgardo M. Caldona penned the 31-page decision while Associate Justices Efren N. de la Cruz and Geraldine Faith A. Econg concurred.
Based on case records, the former officials processed and approved 231 checks paying out cost of living allowances (COLA) to MLUWD officials and employees in 2009, even when the Commission on Audit had already ruled that these were unlawful, having been already incorporated in the wages and benefits of state personnel.
“Truth to tell, the subject funds were merely made to appear as COLA when the actual intention of the accused was simply to bilk the company of its limited public funds for their pure selfish interests,” the Sandiganbayan said.
On August 2, 2011, the Civil Service Commission found Flores and Laroco guilty of gross neglect of duty, gross misconduct, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
They were ordered removed from the posts, stripped of their civil service eligibility, and their retirement benefits forfeited.
Laroco and Flores had admitted that they released the checks without any supporting documents.
Picazo claimed that he had pre-signed all checks without knowing that they would be processed and released as unauthorized allowances, which the court deemed as self-serving.
“As general manager of the water company in whose hands ultimately lie the responsibility for its business affairs, the accused should have known or realized that his claim was constitutive of gross inexcusable negligence that nevertheless makes him liable,” the court said. – Rappler.com
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