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MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has affirmed the conviction of former Sarangani governor Miguel Escobar for graft and malversation.
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division junked the separate motions for reconsideration filed by Escobar and his co-accused, former management analyst Alexis Jude dela Cruz, affirming the court’s guilty verdict in August.
“After a careful review of the arguments raised before this Court, we find no valid reason to grant the Motions for Reconsideration filed by accused Escobar and Dela Cruz,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Associate Justice Kevin Narce Vivero penned the decision, with concurrences from Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi.
The case stemmed from the release of P450,000 in government funds through a falsified disbursement voucher. Escobar and Deal Cruz were sentenced to six to 10 years imprisonment for each case, or a total of 12 to 20 years, with perpetual disqualification to hold public office.
They were also ordered to pay fines of P5,000 each on top of civil liability in the sum of P450,000, payable to the Bureau of Treasury.
Based on the 2011 indictment, state prosecutors accused Escobar of conniving with Dela Cruz, members of the provincial board, and then-vice governor Felipe Constantino on the fraudulent disbursement of funds drawn from the Development Bank of the Philippines by making it appear that the funds were for financial assistance to families under the Malapatan Fishermen’s Group in Malapatan, Sarangani.
Investigators, however, found that the group did not request nor receive funds from the provincial government.
In seeking to appeal their conviction, Escobar and Dela Cruz claimed that their rights to speedy disposition of cases had been violated. They noted that the resolution of the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao was signed on August 4, 2004, but the criminal information was filed in court only seven years later, on November 17, 2011.
The Sandiganbayan said, however, that the arguments were not new and just rehashed by the defense. The court also said that the accused failed to assert their right to a speedy disposition of cases as they did not file motions for early resolution.
As such, the court said it “can only reiterate its ruling that the prosecution sufficiently proved the existence of all the essential elements of the crimes charged as well as the existence of conspiracy among the accused.”
“All told, accused Escobar and Dela Cruz failed to show any compelling reason why this Court should re-evaluate their arguments in their Motions and overturn its earlier pronouncement,” the court added. – Rappler.com