By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Laur Mayor Blas Almazan Canlas of Nueva Ecija has been convicted by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division of his malversation charge in relation to the misappropriation of public funds amounting to P3.5 million.
Canlas was sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of 10 years and one day of prison mayor as minimum to 16 years, five months and 11 days of reclusion temporal as maximum for violation of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.
He is also directed to indemnify the municipality of Laur the sum of P3,508,342.96, which is the exact amount he malversed.
From January to December 2006, Canlas became responsible for several cash advances. These were used for intelligence expense, training workshops in Baguio City, telephone bills, and attendance to a trade expo in Hong Kong and world forum in Canada, among other things. Unfortunately, he failed to liquidate these upon demand.
When he was succeeded by Alvin Gahutan Daus as mayor, Canlas was once again asked to liquidate the said sums. He chose not to respond to the demand letters, and it was then that the Sangguniang Bayan decided to file a case against him before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Because Canlas was unable to satisfactorily explain his failure to liquidate the funds, the Sandiganbayan found enough grounds to convict him.
“Thus, absent any evidence that the funds were used for a legitimate public purpose, there is sufficient proof that accused Canlas is culpable for the felony of malversation of public funds,” the decision read.
The 10-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto with the concurrence of Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz.