The Sandiganbayan has convicted four former officials of the Bataan provincial government of falsification for falsely certifying that the construction of a school’s mini theater had been completed to pave the way for the release of P1.6 million payment to the contractor.
Former Provincial Engineer Amelia R. De Pano, Assistant Provincial Engineer Angelito A. Rodriguez, Engineer IV Noel G. Jimenez, and Architect III Bernardo T. Capistrano were found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Article 171 of the Revised Penal Code on Falsification of Public Documents.
They were sentenced to two to eight years imprisonment and ordered to pay a fine of P2,000. They were also ordered to pay, jointly and severally, P1,655,318.88 to the province of Bataan representing the damage incurred by the provincial government.
Case records showed that on Feb. 20, 2004, the accused falsified the certification of completion for the construction of the mini-theater at Bataan State College even though construction was not yet completed as of Aug. 2004 when separate ocular inspections were conducted by the Office of the Provincial Engineer and the Commission on Audit.
For their defense, they claimed that the prosecution failed to prove the existence of conspiracy among them.
De Pano, Rodriguez, and Jimenez all admitted in their counter-affidavits submitted before the Office of the Ombudsman that they signed the documents in question. However, they contradicted themselves during the trial when they testified that they could not recall signing the documents.
The anti-graft court said that based on both documentary and testimonial evidence presented by the prosecution, it is convinced that the crime of falsification was committed.
The court said: “The Court believes, and so rules… that all of the accused had falsely represented the status of the mini-theater project. The Court is convinced that the accused knowingly misrepresented the status of the project for the early release of the partial payment to V.F. Construction.”
It said that because of their misrepresentation, a “premature release” of P1,655,318.88 was given to V.F. Construction, and as a result, the province of Bataan suffered damage in that amount.
The decision was written by Associate Justice Efren N. De La Cruz and concurred in by Associate Justices Geraldine Faith A. Econg and Edgardo M. Caldona.