Cebu exec suspended over P15-M 'pork' use
MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has ordered the suspension of a municipal accountant of Bogo town in Cebu for signing disbursement vouchers that led to the alleged misappropriation of P15 million by former Rep. Clavel Martinez of Cebu's 4th District in connivance with several other officials.
In a nine-page decision promulgated last Aug. 30, the ninth division of the appellate court found Crescensio Verdida guilty of simple misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service and ordered his suspension for one year.
The CA upheld with modification the June 3, 2011 decision of the Office of the Ombudsman, which held Verdida liable for conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service for agreeing to the release of the funds without verifying the specific projects and activities to be funded.
Verdida, in his petition, argued that the details are not necessary because the municipality was merely a conduit tasked to receive the fund and then transmit it to the pre-identified recipient, the Girl Scouts of the Philippines-Cebu.
But the CA branded Verdida’s argument as “specious,” explaining that even if the P15 million was not sourced from Martinez’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocation, it remained a public fund, “which must be guarded by the government officials entrusted with it.”
“Its release must still comply with the rules on disbursement, including complete documentation of what it will be spent on and for how much. Thus, Verdida should have required a more detailed program of works before certifying completeness of supporting documents,” the court stressed.
But while the CA upheld the offense of conduct prejudicial to the interest of the service against Verdida, it modified the Ombudsman’s finding of dishonesty and grave misconduct and imposition of dismissal from service.
It held that there is no evidence to show that Vedida “acted with corruption intentions” in certifying that all the supporting documents were complete, allowing the release of Martinez’s P15 million in pork barrel funds.
Thus, the CA stressed Verdida’s action does not constitute dishonesty or grave misconduct but merely simple misconduct.
“While Verdida erroneously certified completeness of the supporting documents, the records do not sufficiently indicate a lack of integrity, honesty or probity on his part of that he intentionally concealed or distorted the truth about the disbursement; hence, the charge of dishonesty must fail,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez.
Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr. and Socorro Inting concurred in this decision.
Last month, the Sandiganbayan ordered the arrest of Martinez, her son former Bogo mayor Celestino Martinez III, and former municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez for allegedly conniving in taking P15 million from the PDAF allotted to her district and misappropriated the money for her benefit.
Records showed that the amount coursed through the Municipality of Bogo was released supposedly to the GSP-Cebu Council for an anti-drug campaign when only two percent of the total amount was donated and the bulk withdrawn by the former lawmaker from the GSP-Cebu Council treasury.