pork barrel scam

NGO executives dodge jail time but not repayment of millions in PDAF scam


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NGO executives dodge jail time but not repayment of millions in PDAF scam


MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has acquitted two executives of a nongovernmental organization (NGOs) of criminal charges but ordered them to join four former public officials in reimbursing the government P4.5 million in connection with the pork barrel scam.

Like the others in the case – former Malabon-Navotas congressman Alvin Sandoval and former TRC executives Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, Marivic Jover, and Consuelo Lilian Espiritu – the Sandiganbayan First Division also acquitted Pangkabuhayan Foundation, Incorporated (PFI) executives Petronila and Fernando Balmaceda of graft and malversation charges.

The court, in its decision promulgated on February 27, ruled that the prosecution did not provide sufficient evidence to establish violation of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

“Be that as it may, this Court finds the third element…[that] the act was done through manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence, lacking with respect to accused Petronila and Fernando,” the court said.

Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg penned the decision with concurrences from Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz and Associate Justice Juliet Manalo-San Gaspar.

The court said their acquittal did not remove their civil liability since the law only requires “evidence which is more convincing to the court as worthy of belief than that which is offered in opposition thereto.”

“There is preponderance of evidence that several irregularities attended the conduct of the livelihood project. There is no question that their separate, yet collective acts or omissions led to the release of the PDAF to PFI and the irregularities that plagued the project,” the court said. 

The case involved releases of Sandoval’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) between 2007 and 2009.

The court also brushed aside the Balmacedas’ denial of links to PFI. The couple had asserted that their signatures on the relevant documents were forged.

 “The evidence on record…easily defeats their bare denial. Needless to state, unsubstantiated denial is a weak defense and cannot be given credence as it is self-serving,” the court said.

The court said that Fernando “cannot feign innocence or ignorance as his inaction despite notice refutes his insistence that he has no knowledge of PFI.”

“Surely an innocent man would take action upon knowledge of another person usurping his name and identity,” the court said.

In the case of Petronila, the court said, “Accused Petronila cannot deny her involvement in PFI as the documentary exhibits show consistency in the use of her name and address in all incorporation and business documents of PFI.”

The names and signatures of Balmaceda and Petronilla appeared in PFI’s re-registration document, both confirmed that the foundation’s principal address was their previous residence, and Petronilla’s signature in bank instruments showed that she opened and was a signatory of the PFI bank account. – Rappler.com

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