Ex-Masbate town mayor gets 12 years over P26-M unliquidated cash advances

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has sentenced a former mayor of Milagros town in Masbate to 12 years in prison for failing to liquidate P26.51 million in cash advances.

The Sandiganbayan 7th Division convicted former mayor Bernardito Abapo of malversation for public funds on November 29. The case involved Abapo’s millions of pesos in cash advances from January 2002 to December 2004, which he did not liquidate.

 “Wherefore…accused Bernardito Asibuque Abapo is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of malversation of public funds,” the anti-graft court ruled in a 29-page decision penned by Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo.

The court also ordered Abapo’s perpetual disqualification from holding a government position, and ordered the former official to pay a fine of P26,509,594.04 – the same amount as his unliquidated cash advances.

State prosecutors earlier accused Abapo of misappropriating the cash advances for is personal benefit as he failed to liquidate the amount amid repeated demands from the municipal government and the Commission on Audit.

Abapo’s lawyers presented two witnesses – a former municipal accountant and a former municipal treasurer – who claimed that the former mayor partly liquidated his cash advances.

Upon cross-examination, however, the witnesses admitted that the mayor did not complete the process of liquidation.

“To be precise, accused Abapo could not exculpate himself from liability based on a bare assertion that a partial liquidation was made. Simply put, accused Abapo’s self-serving defense has no value at all,” the anti-graft court said. – Rappler.com