Ex-Lanao del Sur officials cleared of malversation, graft charges

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki 

Former Lanao del Sur provincial treasurer Jadji Macmod Lolong Daldig and foreman-in-charge Linang Arobinto Ripors have been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division of the criminal charges leveled against them involving the reportedly irregular disbursement of double payrolls back in 1993.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN) Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

They were initially charged alongside the late Lanao del Sur governor Mahid Mutilan for violations of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise known as Malversation of Public Funds, and Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Sometime in December 1993, the accused officials approved the payment for payroll voucher nos. 1019301123624 and 101930123665 covering the period of December 1 to 31, 1993. As a result of their actions, irregular disbursements amounting to P14,960 was made, to the damage and prejudice of the government.

During trial, the prosecution opted not to present any witnesses and wanted instead to rely on the strength of their documentary evidence. In doing so, the court said the prosecution failed to show the circumstances surrounding the double payment of the employees' wages.

The Time Book and Payroll had different signatories, and accused Daldig only signed the latter. Ripors' name also appeared on the Payroll, but a cursory look showed that somebody else signed above her name. Since there was no evidence to show their participation in the issuance of either items, the prosecution's evidence failed in proving the acts that caused the double payment of employees' wages.

"All of these infirmities prevent the Court from arriving at a definitive finding as to accused's participation and liabilities," the decision read.

The disbursement of P14,960 was for a public purpose: the payment of the wages of eight government employees. However, it was not proven beyond reasonable doubt that double payment was attributable to the accused's acts.

As for the restitution of the P14,960, the evidence on record shows that it was not the accused, but the employees who benefited from it. They have not been named as co-conspirators, but they returned the said amount.

"There is no evidence to show the irregularity of the employees' hiring - which would have tended to prove the payments were not due to them to begin with," the court said.

"Similarly, as noted earlier, the amount double-paid was not returned to the Province by the accused themselves but by the employees who allegedly unduly received the double payment, hence, the restitution cannot be construed as an admission on the part of the accused of their civil liability nor can it be treated as circumstantial evidence of their culpability," it added.

The 15-page decision was written by Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto with the concurrence of Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz.