pork barrel scam

Sandiganbayan convicts NGO officer of graft, malversation in PDAF scam


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Sandiganbayan convicts NGO officer of graft, malversation in PDAF scam

ANTI-GRAFT COURT. The facade of the Sandiganbayan building in Quezon City.

Photo by Jansen Romero/Rappler

The case stemmed from 'a fictitious and nonexistent livelihood project' in Eastern Samar in 2007

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has convicted an officer of a nongovernmental organization (NGO) of graft and malversation of public funds in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.

In its decision promulgated on February 23, the Sandiganbayan Third Division found Ma. Cristina Vizcarra, an officer of GabayMasa Development Foundation, Incorporated, guilty of two counts malversation of public funds and two counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

She was sentenced to 24 to 40 years imprisonment: six to 10 years for each count of graft, 10 to 14 years for the first malversation case, and two to six years for the second malversation case.

Vizcarra was ordered to pay a fine of P4.85 million for both malversation charges.

She was also held her jointly liable with National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor) executives Encarnita Cristina Munsod and Romulo Relevo, and Gabaymasa officer Margie Luz to reimburse the government P4.85 million payable to the Bureau of Treasury.

Munsod, Relevo, and Luz had been convicted on all four charges in a separate decision issued in September 2022.

Vizcarra had been at large for five years after the case was filed in court. She voluntarily surrendered to authorities on October 24, 2022.

Former Eastern Samar congressman Teodulo Coquilla was originally along indicted with the four but he died in 2018, leading to the dismissal of the charges against him.

Associate Justice Ronald Moreno penned the decision with concurrences from Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.

In convicting Vizcarra, the court reiterated its finding in its 2022 decision that she “willingly went along with the ignoble scheme of accused Coquilla by completing the act of embezzling the PDAF-drawn funds through the implementation of a fictitious and nonexistent livelihood project.”

“The prosecution was able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that accused Vizcarra acted in furtherance of the conspiracy to commit the offenses as charged,” the Sandiganbayan ruled.

The case stemmed from Coquilla’s project for Eastern Samar in 2007, funded by over P4 million from his PDAF.  The project involved the procurement of 32,887 calamundin, rambutan, chico, and mango seedlings; and 10,470 pieces of instructional materials intended for his constituents in the municipalities of Dolores, Maslog, Jipapad, Lawaan and Guiuan.

State auditors, who had testified on the anomalies, earlier uncovered non-existent procurements and bogus distribution of supposed fruit-tree seedlings to various barangays during their audit. Their testimonies were corroborated by the supposed suppliers of the seedlings, who said they did not sell them and that they had no transactions with GabayMasa.

Officials from the concerned barangays also testified in court that they did not receive any seedlings or instructional materials in connection to the project. – Rappler.com

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