Sandiganbayan convicts ex-Iloilo Rep. Syjuco, 2 others on misuse of P20-M PDAF in 2006

Published November 16, 2021, 2:40 PM

by Jel Santos

Sandiganbayan

The Sandiganbayan has convicted former Iloilo Rep. Judy J. Syjuco and two other persons of two counts of graft in connection with the misuse of the former legislator’s P20-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2006.

Also convicted were former Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General for Field Operations Santiago M. Yabut Jr. and Tagipusuon Cooperative President Maria Nelia E. Yniesta.

They were sentenced to a prison term ranging from six to eight years for each count. They were also ordered to pay jointly civil liability of P6.9 million and banned perpetually from holding public office.

The late former TESDA Director General Augusto L. Syjuco Jr. had been included in the two counts of graft cases. But on account of his death in 2020, the Sandiganbayan had dismissed the charges against him.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said the pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution “more than sufficiently established the required quantum proof for the conviction of the accused of the offenses charged.”

The anti-graft court said that “accused Yniesta, as president of Tagipusuon Cooperative, joined the aforementioned public officials in signing a MOA (Memorandum of Agreement), receiving the P20M from TESDA and in purportedly implementing the project of purchasing books, uniforms, and school supplies for elementary and high school students in the 2nd District of Iloilo.”

It said that the “PDAF funds of accused Judy Syjuco in the total amount of P20M was misused in violation of law and contrary to applicable rules and regulations.”

Records showed that in 2005, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued two Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) at P10 million each from the PDAF of Judy Syjuco for the implementation of TESDA’s so-called “Education For All Program.” TESDA was then headed by the former legislator’s husband, Augusto L. Syjuco Jr.

The court cited the 2011 findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) which noted several deficiencies.

“The account due from NGOs of P5,297,818.84 representing unliquidated portion of P20 million advances made to Tagipusuon Cooperative in 2005 for the implementation of ‘Education for All Projects of the Second District of Iloilo’ is not within TESDA’s mandated function contrary to National Budget Circular No. 476 dated 20 September 2001 rendering the said transactions highly irregular,” it said.

It pointed out that the Tagipusuon Cooperative, whose primary objective is to plan and implement livelihood projects for women, was given P20 million by TESDA for the implementation of the “Education for all Projects.”

“Accused [Judy] Syjuco herself admitted that Tagipusuon was founded by her husband in 1998,” it noted.

It said the Tagipusuon Cooperative used the money to purchase notebooks, bags, uniforms, and school supplies for elementary and high school students, and for their cooperative’s operating and overhead expenses as well as wages and salaries of its members/employees.

“Worse, there is no proper liquidation of the funds received by Tagipusuon Cooperative,” the court stressed.

“Clearly, public funds in the amount of P20M from the PDAF of accused Syjuco was misused when unwarranted benefits were given to Tagipusuon Cooperative thereby causing undue injury to the government,” the court ruled.

The decision was written by Associate Justice Oscar C. Herrera Jr., and concurred in by Associate Justices Bayani H. Jacinto and Sarah Jane T. Fernandez.

Associate Justice Frederick L. Musngi dissented while Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo filed a concurring and dissenting opinion.

 
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