CEBU, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division found former Ronda, Cebu municipal treasurer Esperato del Socorro guilty of malversation of public funds in a decision promulgated on Tuesday, February 7.
Based on the 124-page decision penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero, Del Socorro conspired with the late mayor of Ronda, Esteban Sia, by issuing anomalous cash advances for purposes other than travel in 2009 which remained unliquidated.
Ronda is a town in the second district of Cebu province.
Many red flags, which included issued checks with no disbursement vouchers and supporting documents, also showed up in the Commission on Audit (COA) 2009 annual report on Ronda.
The COA findings prompted the Sangguniang Bayan of Ronda to create a resolution that led to the filing of a formal complaint against 13 local officials, including the mayor, the municipal treasurer, and municipal accountant Genera Kasayan.
By November 2019, Kasayan testified as a state witness, pointing out the many irregularities with the cash advances requested by Sia.
In her testimony, she said that she had sent multiple demand letters to the mayor about the unliquidated cash advances, despite the mayor’s “brash behavior.”
“I was at the receiving end of pressure, reprimands, and public humiliation when I dared to question his transactions or when vouchers reached my office for my signature and I dared to reject it,” Kasayan said in her counter-affidavit.
During the course of the trial, Sia admitted that he received the money from the cash advances, but he died on July 17, 2020, forcing the court to dismiss the graft charges against him on December 1, 2021.
Despite this, the court still held Del Socorro criminally liable even though he did not benefit from any of the unliquidated money which totaled P2,063,422.72.
“True, accused Del Soccoro and Kasayan were persons in a chain of processing officers who happen to sign or initial many a voucher as it is going the rounds. But nothing could be further from the truth as the fact that Del Socorro has ‘guilty knowledge’ of accused Sia’s bigoted ways,” the court ruled.
Because of this, the former treasurer was sentenced to 6 to 10 years of imprisonment for each of the offenses committed — a total of 20 years in prison.
Del Socorro is also barred perpetually from holding public office and accessing retirement funds.
Additionally, he was fined P2.06 million under criminal liability and the same amount plus interest at 6% per annum under civil liability. – Rappler.com
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