Sandigan affirms RTC Romblon conviction of HS disbursing officer of malversation

The Sandiganbayan First Division has affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 82 of Odiongan, Romblon convicting Disbursing Officer Alice R. Ragodon of Romblon National High School (RNHS) of malversation of public funds for the mishandling of school funds amounting to P802,224.19.

Ragodon was in charge of the encashment of salaries and cash benefits of teachers and school personnel at the Land Bank of the Philippines Odiongan branch.

However, on Oct. 14, 2002, she allowed another person to take P802,224.19 when she failed to convert the cash into PNB demand draft which is the usual procedure being undertaken whenever checks are endorsed at LBP for transport to Romblon.

Lupo Mazo, security guard of Romblon National High School, testified during trial that he was instructed by school principal Fiorelio Faigao to accompany Ragodon to withdraw the amount from LBP then convert it into a demand draft in PNB.

But after withdrawing the money, Ragodon chose instead to go to the house of a certain Mr. Arevalo, her relative, instead of going directly to PNB. They stayed there from noon until 11:45 p.m., after which, Mazo called for a vehicle to take them to the pier.

Mazo said they were waylaid near the new market by one person riding a motorcycle and two other persons in another motorcycle. The bag containing the money was then forcibly taken from Ragodon.
She was convicted by the RTC on Sept. 17, 2015. Ragodon filed an appeal before the anti-graft court and sought a reversal of her conviction.

In its ruling, the anti-graft court sided with the RTC's decision and said that Ragodon, through negligence, permitted another person to take public funds.

Ragodon said in her defense that she was unable to exchange the cash with a demand draft with PNB because it was closed by the time she finished her transaction with LBP.

But the anti-graft court did not believe her defense because of the testimony of Mazo that they headed straight to the house of Arevalo. Ragodon did not even attempt to go to PNB.

"That the accused-appellant did not exchange the cash withdrawn from Landbank-Odiongan for a demand draft from PNB-Odiongan is a clear defiance of Faigao's specific instruction. At the very least, it is a clear indication of negligence on her part," the Sandiganbayan said.

The court said she failed to exercise due diligence in the handling of the money, intended for the salaries of the teachers and other personnel of RNHS. While the robbery incident was unfortunate, the court said it cannot be denied that the loss of the money could have been prevented had she only followed the instructions of the principal.

Ragodon was sentenced to suffer the indeterminate penalty of two years, four months, and one day of prision correcional as minimum to seven years and four months of prision mayor as maximum, with perpetual disqualification from holding public office. She was also ordered to pay a fine of P802,224.19

The 18-page decision was written by First Division Chairperson Efren de La Cruz and concurred in by Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona.