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MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan again rendered guilty verdicts on former Cotabato Representative Gregorio Ipong, and two other former high-ranking officers of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) on charges of graft and malversation of public funds in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” of the lawmaker.
Also convicted together with Ipong were the former TLRC officials deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, and chief accountant Marivic Jover.
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division’s 52-page decision promulgated September 13, 2022, said all three were guilty of the charges of graft and malversation of public funds in connection with the fraudulent transfer of P4.9 million from the PDAF allocations of Ipong to a private foundation on May 3, 2007.
The anti-graft court said: “As shown by the prosecution, manifest partiality and evident bad faith are present in this case when established rules, regulations and policies of the [Commission on Audit] were wantonly disregarded… Ipong …allowed the anomalous disbursement of his P4.9 million PDAF allocation to finance the fictitious livelihood project of AFPI, a non-existent NGO.”
This was the second time the three were convicted on similar charges.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division also found on September 11, 2020, all three accused guilty of crimes with similar circumstances. That time, the 2020 decision involved Ipong’s P9.6 million pork barrel.
In both cases, the prosecutors were able to prove that the three allowed the transfer of public funds to Aaron Foundation Philippines Incorporated (AFPI), a non-government organization (NGO).
Two others were co-accused in both graft and malversation cases but are still at-large. These were AFPI head Alfredo A. Ronquillo and former TLRC director general Antonio Ortiz.
The 2022 decision of the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division was penned by Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero with Associate Justices Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Bayani H. Jacinto concurring.
Ipong and the two others were sentenced to six to ten years imprisonment for graft, and 10 to 17 years for the malversation or a total of 16 to 27 years.
All three were now barred from holding any other government position and ordered to each pay a fine of P4.9 million. They were also ordered to indemnify the government in the same amount payable to the Bureau of Treasury subject to a 6% yearly interest until paid in full.
The Sandiganbayan decision noted that Ipong handpicked AFPI as project partner for his PDAF-funded livelihood projects that were earmarked for the poor and marginalized in his district.
Cunanan and Jover, said the decision, have “knowingly processed, approved, and subsequently released to AFPI” the Ipong’s PDAF even if the NGO was not accredited by the government. – Rappler.com