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ComVal municipal officers acquitted of graft in ghost purchases case.

Saying the officials could not be blamed for the lapses in the municpality's accounting system, the Sandiganbayan has acquitted former municipal officers in Nabunturan, Compostela Valley of graft over alleged ghost purchases of medicines worth P46,765.68.

In its decision, the Sandiganbayan Second Division acquitted then officer in charge mayor Iluminada Cabuga, municipal treasurer Bartolome Virtucio, municipal accountant Gilda Savellano, municipal dentist Esperanza Paig, municipal treasurer office representative Restituto Turing, municipal accountant office representative Lydia Arangcon, general services office representative Anita Cunado, management and audit analyst Gliceria Noval, clerk II Helen Cutin, private individual Leny Francisco, municipal treasurer's office representative Isidro Alemania, municipal accountant office representative Leonardo Espadilla, dental aide Leonora Tabalina, and General Services Office representative Eleuterio Cuezon Jr.

The graft cases for violation of Section 3(e) of the anti-graft law involved preparing six checks worth P46,765.68 for medical supplies which were not received by or delivered to the municipality in 1995 and 1996.

Instead, the court blames the lapses in the accounting of the municipality to the former mayor Joel Bugas, who fled his graft charges. The court has archived his case until his arrest.

The court said the prosecution was able to prove that no medicines were delivered to the Municipal Health Office, especially because the pharmacy owners denied supplying the medicine to the municipal government.

But the prosecution still failed to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

For one, the court noted that there were lapses in the system due to the failure of the mayor to enforce procurement rules under the Local Government Code - problems on the internal control of the accounting office, the lack of property custodian, among others.

The court said the officials only signed the inspection report and approved the vouchers due to their temporary designations.

'While it may be argued that the public officers involved were grossly negligent, a violation of Section 3(e) of the Republic Act 3019 requires that their negligence also be inexcusable. Thus, though all the first three elements of the crime are present, we find that the gross negligence of these public officers are excusable for the failure of the mayor of the municipality to enforce the pertinent provisions in the Local Government Code in the procurement process,' the court ruled.

The prosecution also failed to prove that the officials conspired with each other to commit a crime, the court said.

'The prosecution failed to prove that the accused public officials knew about the illegal activity. Their signatures alone do not show that they actively participated in the scheme,' the court said.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi and concurred by Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Geraldine Faith Econg.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Apr 13, 2017
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