Sandiganbayan allows prosecution to withdraw malversation charge vs. ex-DA officials

Published January 25, 2020, 12:00 AM

by manilabulletin_admin

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki 

The Sandiganbayan Third Division has granted the motion of the prosecution to withdraw the malversation charge it earlier filed against several officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) involving the P4.9 million payment made to several private suppliers back from April to November 2004.

Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)
Sandiganbayan (MANILA BULLETIN)

Former regional executive director Roger Chio, regional technical director Romulo Palcon, officer-in-charge (OIC) regional director Carlos Mendoza, OIC administrative officer III Godofredo Ramos, chief of administrative division Francisco Agustin, budget officer II Gilda Cordero-Panal, regional accountant Mariflor Garcia, regional cashier Rita Retino, and cashier I Corazon Ebero were accused of violating Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise known as Malversation of Public Funds.

The charges were for the payment made to Everland Agri Corporation, Mintal Fruit Nursery, and Asian Hybrid Technology Inc. to take a total of P4,916,906 despite absence of documents showing any advertisement, eligibility screening of prospective bidders, receipt and opening of bids, evaluation of bids, post-qualification, and award of contract. This was in violation of R.A. 9184 and its implementing rules and regulations.

The prosecution filed a motion dated August 9, 2019 praying for the withdrawal of the malversation charge. While preparing for the trial, the handling prosecutor became convinced that the allegations in the charge sheet do not amount to an offense of malversation and there is no sufficient evidence to prove the essential elements of misappropriation.

In malversation, the court said it was necessary to prove that the accused received public funds and that they could not account for them. The law requires that the shortage of funds must be clearly established by the auditors.

But since that was not so in this case, the court ruled to grant the prosecution’s motion. “Hence, there being no sufficient evidence of misappropriation against the respondents herein, the case for malversation of public funds against the accused would not prosper into conviction, and it is therefore futile now to proceed with the case,” the resolution stated.

The 10-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Ronald Moreno.