Former Energy official convicted of estafa

Published May 1, 2019, 1:13 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

A former assistant secretary at the Department of Energy (DOE) Mapandi, who was dismissed in 2015, was found guilty of estafa by the Sandiganbayan Third Division for defrauding a woman of P100,000.

Assistant Secretary Matanog Mangansan Mapandi was sentenced to a prison term of four months to one year. He was also ordered to pay the complainant Elizabeth Sibulo P100,000 in damages.

The court noted that Mapandi and his co-accused Myrna A. Almonte and Francisco Merilles, “criminally defraud[ed] Elizabeth Sibulo through deceit or false pretense by making it appear that they possess power and influence in facilitating the approval and release of the P50 million solar street lighting project in Magano, Camarines Sur in favor of Cha Construction & Supply, a licensed contractor, for a fee,” their charge sheet read.

Sibulo was induced to part with P100,000 because of their deceit, all along believing that the three of them can manipulate the project in her favor.

Based on the evidence on record, the anti-graft court ruled that Mapandi is guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

Mapandi led Sibulo to believe that he possessed the power to award the solar street lighting project to her, even though he did not. Sibulo would not have accepted the project had it not been for the assurances of Mapandi, the court said.

“Notably, Mapandi admitted that he was not even a part of Renewable Energy Management Bureau or the Electric Power Management Bureau which has direct control and supervision over the solar street lighting project,” the decision read.

What really pinned Mapandi’s conviction was his admission that he gave to Almonte his Land Bank ATM card, which corresponds to the account where the amount of P100,000 was deposited by Sibulo on December 4, 2009.

Mapandi tried to reason that he gave Almonte his ATM card merely as an accommodation so that she could facilitate the release of her monthly allowances from her father, known only during the trial as General Almonte.

Apparently, Almonte’s father decided to reduce her monthly allowance when he discovered her lavish lifestyle. She requested that the allowance be coursed through Mapandi’s bank account, since her father trusts Mapandi.

However, the court found this defense “unpersuasive” since they had known each other for less than six months only. Mapandi did not even keep track of the movements of his account to verify if General Almonte did deposit money in his account.

“We also find outrageous the claim of Mapandi that General Almonte would deposit money in his personal account when they have not even met in person or communicated with each other,” the decision read.

Mapandi tried to cling to the defense of good faith, since he was not aware of the deposit made by Sibulo to his account. But the court found it strange that he kept mum about the deposits and did not even verify with the bank when confronted by Sibulo.

“What Mapandi did was to simply close the account without even requesting a bank statement at the closing of the account. His failure to do so was such a gross omission that it would amount to a positive act of himself committing, as his co-accused did, a fraudulent representation, which as the Ombudsman found, was not difficult to ascertain,” the decision read.

What’s more, Mapandi and his co-accused never informed Sibulo that the project had long been disapproved. She continued doling out money as Mapandi assured her that the project will push through.

The charges against Almonte and Merilles, on the other hand, have been archived until they are apprehended.