Ex-Benguet official pleads guilty to lesser offense

Published June 13, 2019, 9:47 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki

Former Municipal Accountant Virginia Kigisan of Bakun, Benguet, one of the co-accused in the graft charge filed against former Mayor Bartolome Coga-ay Sacla in relation to the 2004 fertilizer fund scam, decided to plead guilty to a lesser offense instead of graft.

Kigisan has imposed the penalty of P5,000, and she and her other co-accused are jointly held liable to pay back the municipality the total amount of P1,950,000.

Only Kigisan has submitted herself to the jurisdiction of the anti-graft court after being charged, and she posted bail before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Benguet.

She initially filed a motion to dismiss with a prayer to defer arraignment, which was eventually denied by the Sandiganbayan on June 14, 2018. Kigisan was arraigned on June 22, wherein she entered a plea of not guilty.

She later manifested that she wanted to change her not guilty plea to guilty, provided that she be charged for violating Section 7(a) of R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees instead of graft.

The prosecution posed no objection to her plea bargain, and even got the approval of the Ombudsman. Because of this, the anti-graft court issued a decision granting Kigisan’s new plea.

“The mitigating circumstance of the plea of guilty will be appreciated in favor of the accused as the change of plea was made prior to the presentation of evidence by the prosecution,” the decision read.

Aside from Kigisan and Sacla, others who are facing the graft charge include municipal treasurer Manuel Bagayao and private individual Dolly Villaflor, who is the owner of Bry Cin Enterprises.

On May 7, 2004, the local officials and Villaflor were accused of conspiring with one another and taking advantage of their positions when they awarded the contract for the delivery and supply of 1,300 bottles of Nutro Ocean liquid fertilizers in the amount of P1,950,000 to Bry Cin Enterprises.

They did so without undergoing public bidding, which therefore resulted in the purchase of overpriced fertilizers.