MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court on Monday, January 9, sentenced former Leyte 3rd District congressman Eduardo Veloso and former Technology Resource Center (TRC) group manager Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana to 36 to 56 years in prison over the pork barrel scam.
They are found guilty of two counts of graft and two counts of malversation of public funds after they diverted P24.2 million in Veloso’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to a “sham” foundation in 2007.
The Sandiganbayan First Division ordered them to pay the government a total of P49.4 million, representing the P24.2 million released to the largely unknown Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI) and fines in the same amount.
Veloso and Lacsamana got six to 10 years for each count of graft, and 12 to 18 years for each count of malversation. They are perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
Congressman endorsed NGO he didn’t know
Ombudsman prosecutors in 2019 accused Veloso of conspiring with Lacsamana and other TRC officers to release to AFPI P14.4 million, followed by P9.8 million, of his PDAF in 2007. The total amount was never liquidated.
“Nary a single testimony or document was offered to show that the subject PDAF funds were utilized for the public purpose that they have been allocated for, indicative of undue injury cause to the government,” according to the 52-page decision written by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, chairperson of the First Division.
Associate justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Arthur Malabaguio concurred.
The former Leyte congressman said he didn’t know AFPI, and only heard about it from other congressmen, whom he failed to identify in his testimony. Yet, he requested the Speaker then to release his PDAF to AFPI through the now-defunct TRC.
The anti-graft court said: “For accused Veloso to endorse Aaron, a foundation whose qualifications and track record are unknown to him…points to the conclusion that he acted in a plain inclination or predilection to favor Aaron. Thus, Veloso’s act of endorsing Aaron to the exclusion of other NGOs is highly indicative of his manifest partiality.”
Meanwhile, TRC’s Lacsamana, whose duty it was to “ascertain that the supporting documents relating to the projects were signed, complete, and in order” in fact “only exerted the littlest effort” to check the qualifications of the foundation. Thus, she missed the “red flags” all pointing to AFPI as a “sham NGO,” the court said.
The Sandiganbayan acquitted the co-accused from the TRC, namely former deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, chief accountant Marivic Jover, and group manager Francisco Figura. The court said these officers only relied on Lacsamana to have checked AFPI’s accreditation and legitimacy.
Still, Cunanan, Figura, and Jover have been ordered to pay the P24.2 million with Veloso and Lacsamana as civil liability. They still participated in the transactions, anyway, the court said.
Another co-accused, AFPI’s Alfredo A. Ronquillo died in the course of the trial. – Rappler.com