5 persons convicted for misuse of P9.6M PDAF of late congressman Herminio Teves

The Sandiganbayan has convicted five persons involved in the misuse of the P9.6 million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of the late Negros Oriental 3rd District Rep. Herminio G. Teves in 2007.

Found guilty of graft and malversation of public funds were former Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) officer-in-charge of the Legislative Liaison Office Belina A. Concepcion, deputy director general Dennis L. Cunanan, chief accountant Marivic V. Jover, Teves' chief of staff Hiram Diday R. Pulido, and private individual Samuel S. Bombeo.

For graft, they were sentenced to a prison term ranging from six to 10 years with perpetual disqualification to hold public office.  For malversation, they were meted out jail terms ranging from 12 to 18 years and ordered to indemnify the government of P9.6 million with six per cent yearly interest until fully paid.

The cases against Teves had been dismissed on account of his death. Former TLRC department manager Francisco B. Figura was acquitted.  The cases against former TLRC director general Antonio Y. Ortiz remained archived pending his arrest or surrender.

In filing the criminal charges, the prosecution told the Sandiganbayan that on Feb. 27, 2007, Teves and his co-accused took advantage of their positions and gave Molugan   Incorporated (MFI) president Bombeo unwarranted benefits in the use of the P9.6 million PDAF.

It said that Teves unilaterally chose and endorsed Molugan, which is controlled and operated by Bombeo, as a project partner in the implementation of a livelihood program for his constituents, which was funded by Teves' P10 million PDAF.

Bombeo received on behalf of MFI the P9.6 million, while the TLRC received P400,000 as service fee, the prosecution said.

But it said the endorsement of MFI was done in total disregard of the appropriation law and its implementing rules, and without complying with the provisions of Republic Act No. 9184, the Government Procurement Reform Act, and its implementing rules and regulations.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said the transfer of Teves' PDAF to TLRC and its subsequent transfer to MFI was in violation of the 2007 General Appropriations Act (GAA) or the "PDAF Article" and Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 96-003.

The PDAF Article provides that the PDAF should be directly released to the implementing agency, and non-government organizations (NGOs) are not among the implementing agencies of PDAF, the court said. In this case, TLRC transferred the funds to MFI, an NGO, it also said.

"TLRC, to which the PDAF of Teves was released, should have implemented the livelihood project as it was the implementing agency specifically indicated in the GAA. The transfer of the funds from TLRC to MFI is therefore in violation of the 2007 GAA," the court stressed.

The COA circular, the court explained, mandates that prior accreditation of an NGO is needed before it could be extended financial assistance. But MFI was not accredited to undertake the livelihood project of Teves, and there is no proof that it submitted documents required for its accreditation, it said.

The court pointed out that the actions of the accused officials and Bombeo were indicative of conspiracy, since they acted in unity for MFI to implement the livelihood project of Teves despite its lack of accreditation and lack of legal basis.

"Were it not for their consent and participation, the funds would not have been disbursed and released to MFI, through Bombeo," the court said.

The 68-page decision was written by Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.