‘Ignorance of the law excuses no one’

Published July 1, 2022, 3:10 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

Sandiganbayan

The Sandiganbayan has found former Mayor Christopher Leones Millare Sr. of Licuan-Baay, Abra guilty of two counts of technical malversation in the P3.2 million rehabilitation of the municipal hall in 2011 and 2012.

There was no imprisonment meted out by the court but Millare was ordered to pay a fine of P160,000.

Technical malversation is illegal use of public funds under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC). Article 220 punishes a public official “who shall apply any public fund or property under his administration to any public use other than that for which such fund or property was appropriated by law or ordinance.”

The offense is punishable with a prison term ranging from six months to six years or “fine ranging from one-half to the total value of the sum misapplied, if by reason of such misapplication, any damage or embarrassment shall have resulted to the public service.”

The anti-graft court found that Millare disbursed P1.2 million in 2011 and P2 million in 2012 from the 20 percent annual internal revenue allotment (IRA) for the rehabilitation of the municipal hall.

The court agreed with the prosecution that what Millare did was “specifically prohibited” by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Joint Memorandum Circular No. 2011-1.

It said cannot appropriate the 20 percent development fund for other programs or expenses that were prohibited under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG)-DBM joint memorandum circular No. 2011-1, which includes the construction, repair or refinishing of administrative offices.

In his defense, Millare said that the municipal hall was used as an evacuation center, which was one of the projects covered under the joint memorandum circular.

But the court said that Millare’s evidence to support his claim was lacking.

“Had the accused presented evidence to show that the municipal hall was rehabilitated with the intent of using it, or part thereof, as an evacuation center, the use of the subject funds for such purpose may have been proper,” the court said.

“However, there is nothing on record that would support the accused’s claim. On the contrary, it appears that the use of the municipal hall as an evacuation center was merely an afterthought after the subject funds had already been used,” it said.

On Millare claim that he did not receive a copy of the joint memorandum circular during his term as mayor, and he only found out about it when the case was filed against him, the court said: “He cannot hide behind the cloak of ignorance of existing laws, rules, regulations and policies.”

“It is a basic tenet that ignorance of the law excuses no one from compliance therewith,” it stressed.

Associate Justice Kevin Narce B. Vivero wrote the decision with the concurrence of Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane T. Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda.

 
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