MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan's Second Division has sentenced former Guinobatan mayor Juan G. Rivera of Albay to 135 years in prison following his conviction of 17 counts of malversation of public funds.
The court found Rivera guilty of embezzling public funds for failing to liquidate a total of P357,956.08 released to him between June 1998 to April 2001.
The total amount was released to him through 17 cash advances, which were made in checks drawn out of the Guinobatan's bank account, and cash on hand.
The funds were for Rivera's travels, registration of local government vehicles, and municipal projects.
An audit report showed, however, that Rivera failed to liquidate the cash advances, and did not return the unliquidated funds even after receiving notices.
Rivera claimed that he never received the cash advances, and said it was the municipal treasurer who had converted the checks into cash.
The court, however, said that the Rivera's "denial of receiving the proceeds of his cash advances is patently a mere afterthought."
"He did not raise this at the earliest opportunity which does not augur well with ordinary human experience," the Sandiganbayan said.
“Said cash advances were obtained from 1998 to 2001. The said cash advances remain unliquidated as of August 31, 2004, when the demand letter was sent. Irrefutably, the accused failed to liquidate his cash advances within the period required by the rules,” it added.
Rivera was meted 11 ten-year sentences; 3 6-year jail terms; and another 4 two-years-and-four-month imprisonment for a total of 135 years.
The court ordered him to pay P302,956 in fines, and the cost of the trial. It also perpetually barred him from holding public office.
It was not the first time for the former mayor to get such a prison term.
In 2004, the Sandiganbayan sentenced Rivera to 140 years in prison for embezzling P800,000 in calamity funds meant for victims of the Mayon Volcano eruption in early 2000.
In 2005, the Supreme Court granted Rivera's petition for review and remanded the case to the Sandiganbayan for further proceedings. – Rappler.com