By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Camarines Sur Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Nestor Villegas has been convicted of malversation by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division due to his failure to properly liquidate cash advances amounting to P150 thousand back on July 1, 1997.
He was convicted for violation of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code and sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of two years, four months and one day of prison correctional as minimum and six years and one day of prison mayor as maximum.
Villegas was also fined in the amount of the total malversed funds of P150,104.70. Since the amount has been restituted in full, no civil liability is imposed upon him.
He was earlier charged for violation of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code for misappropriating P150,104.70 worth of cash advances intended for his official travel. During arraignment, Villegas pleaded not guilty.
During the course of the trial, the Sandiganbayan learned that the travel did not push through because Villegas’ application for a U.S. visa was denied. When the money was demanded from him by the provincial legal officer, Villegas was unable to return the money immediately because he had already used it.
He paid back P100,000 on December 29, 2011 and the remaining balance on December 6, 2012. It was on that same day that the complaint against him reached the Office of the Ombudsman.
Villegas tried to reason that there was no criminal intent on his part since he had no intention to convert the funds for his personal benefit. Villegas further argued that he eventually returned the cash advance in full.
However, his arguments failed to persuade the Sandiganbayan. “The fact that he eventually returned the amount received as cash advance in full will not exonerate him from criminal liability,” the decision read.
“The felony was consummated when he used the public funds entrusted to him for his own benefit. The return of the funds, in the case at bar, cannot even be considered a mitigating circumstance considering that it took the accused around 14 years to return the P100,000 and the balance of P50,104.70 almost a year thereafter, without any valid explanation as to why he could not have liquidated the same within a more reasonable period,” it added.
The court found that the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the crime of malversation, and gave Villegas a guilty sentence.
The 16-page decision was penned by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Maryann Corpus-Mañalac.