Ex-PhilRice official escapes prison sentence, pays P15,000 fine after plea bargain

Published October 7, 2020, 3:16 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Former Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) Executive Director Ronilo Beronio was ordered by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division to pay a fine of P15,000 after he pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of breach of conduct instead of graft.

Beronio was re-arraigned on October 2, and he pleaded guilty to three counts of violation of Section 7(a) of R.A. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards. He was sentenced to pay a fine of P5,000 for each of the charges, or a total of P15,000.

He was initially slapped with three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for entering into car loan contracts that were grossly disadvantageous to the government.

Beronio, one of the co-accused in the case filed against former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap, signed Hold Out Agreements (HOA) with the Philippine National Bank (PNB), wherein PhilRice funds were used as security for the loan obligation of its employees under the PhilRice Car Plan.

Beronio himself was one of the beneficiaries of the PhilRice Car Plan.

Had he been convicted of the three graft charges, Beronio would have been handed a prison sentence of over 30 years.

Both the prosecution and defense submitted a Joint Motion to Approve Plea Bargaining Agreement on September 25, 2019.

The anti-graft court warned Beronio that he may be punished twice for the very same offense should he plead guilty to breach of conduct, so he filed a Waiver of Right Against Double Jeopardy.

The five-page decision was signed by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.