Former Catanduanes Gov. Leandro B. Verceles Jr. and six of his co-accused pleaded guilty to the lesser offense of frauds against the public treasury before the Sandiganbayan to forego their trial on a graft case.
The graft charge may land them in jail for a maximum period of 10 years if convicted, while the plea to the lesser offense may impose on them a prison term ranging from six months to six years or a fine or both.
The Sandiganbayan, in granting their plea, directed Verceles, Provincial Engineer Rodolfo Maliñana, Provincial Budget Officer Ireneo C. Del Rosario, Provincial Agriculturist Herbert DLS Evangelista Sr., Assistant Provincial Assessor Abelardo Abundo Jr., Engineer III Hilda V. Arcilla, and Provincial Treasurer Julieta Tasarra to pay a fine of P5,000 each.
"The Court also finds all the aforementioned accused civilly liable to the provincial government of Catanduanes in the amount of P1,749,000. They are hereby ordered to pay, jointly and severally, the said amount to the aforesaid local government unit," the decision written by Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera Jr. stated.
The graft charge against them arose from the purchase of 1,166 liters of Macro Micro Liquid Foliar Fertilizers worth P1,749,000 from Green's International Enterprises owners Ricardo T. Mendoza and Ma. Lourdes T. Mendoza from Dec. 20, 2004 to Jan. 5, 2005. The prosecution said the purchase was attended with several irregularities.
The accused initially entered a "Not Guilty" plea for their graft charge. But last Feb. 19, they moved that they be re-arraigned so they could plead "Guilty" to the lesser offense.
Since the prosecution did not interpose any objection, the Court granted the motion.
Associate Justices Michael Frederick L. Musngi and Bayani H. Jacinto concurred.