Sandiganbayan convicts late Teves’ co-accused

The Sandiganbayan convicted three ex-officials of the now defunct Technology and Livelihood Resource Center and two others over P9.6 million worth of ghost projects funneled through the pork barrel of the late Negros Oriental lawmaker Herminio Teves in 2007.

The anti-graft court's Third Division found ex-TLRC deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, ex-chief accountant Marivic Jover, ex-legislative liaison office officer-in-charge Belina Concepcion, Teves's then chief-of-staff Hiram Pulido and Molugan Foundation Inc. president Samuel Bombeo guilty of one count each of graft and malversation.

They were sentenced to up to 28 years in prison and perpetually disqualified from holding public office. They were also ordered to pay back the P9.6 million, with interest of 6 percent per annum.

TLRC's erstwhile department manager, Francisco Figura, meanwhile, was acquitted of the same charges. The Sandigabayan also dismissed the case against the principal accused, Teves, owing to his passing.

Filed by the Ombudsman in 2017, the graft and malversation charge arose from the disbursement of Teves's P9.6-million Priority Development Assistance Fund or PDAF to Molugan Foundation Inc., a non-governmental organization controlled by Bombeo.

The Ombudsman said Teves "unilaterally chose" MFI as the implementor of his livelihood program drawn from his P10-million pork barrel that was originally intended for the depressed barangays and constituents in his district.

State prosecutors proved that the PDAF was used for ghost or non-existent projects. Of the total, P9.6 million went to MFI, while P400,000 went to TLRC as a service fee.

MFI did not have the capacity to implement the project as it was incorporated only in 2007, the year it was tasked to implement the PDAF project, the Ombudsman told the court.

The respondents were accused of causing undue injury to the government by giving unwarranted benefits and advantages to MFI.

"There is no doubt that the acts of Concepcion, Cunanan, Jover, Pulido and Bombeo caused undue injury to the government in the amount of P9,600,000 which to date remains unaccounted for," the Sandiganbayan said in its 68-page ruling.

The court also ruled that the respondents' act of extending unwarranted benefits to a private party "without the proper accreditation" and the "lack of legal basis," considering it was not one of the implementing agencies identified in the 2007 General Appropriations Act, were in violation of CoA Circular No. 96-003.

"The totality of the facts and circumstances demonstrates that the accused, through manifest partiality, gross inexcusable negligence and/or evident bad faith, committed the offense of violation of Section 3(e) of RA No. 3019, causing undue injury to the government and giving unwarranted benefits to Bombeo and MFI," the court said.

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