CA softens penalty for Cebu accountant over PDAF misuse-A A +A
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
AN ACCOUNTANT allegedly involved in the misuse of pork barrel funds of former Cebu Representative Clavel Martinez can still work in government and receive retirement benefits after the Court of Appeals (CA) amended the penalties imposed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011.
In a decision dated August 30, the CA Ninth Division said Cresencio Verdida, who used to work for Bogo Municipal Government, will suffer only one-year suspension for being guilty of simple misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
The Ombudsman earlier slapped Verdida with the penalty of dismissal from service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification for reinstatement or reemployment in the government service.
But Verdida questioned the Ombudsman's decision finding him guilty of dishonesty, grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.
Verdida certified in the disbursement vouchers that the supporting documents on the release of P10 million for the anti-drug campaign of the Girl Scouts of the Philippines in 2003 were complete and there were no previous unliquidated cash advances.
It turned out, however, that the money was deposited to Clavel’s personal bank account. He returned the P10 million in 2005 but the Ombudsman pushed through with the filing of graft and malversation cases before the Sandiganbayan since it was allegedly established that the money was misappropriated.
The Ombudsman claimed there was no real program of works to support the disbursement; the attached program of works was not itemized; and the program was prepared by municipal treasurer Rhett Minguez instead of the GSP Council-Cebu.
Verdida did not object to the Ombudsman’s observations although he found those details unnecessary, saying the municipality was merely a conduit tasked to receive the fund and transmit it to GSP-Cebu.
“While Verdida erroneously certified completeness of the supporting documents, the records do not sufficiently indicate lack of integrity, honesty or probity on his part or that he intentionally concealed or distorted the truth about the disbursement; hence, the charge of dishonesty must fail,” stated the decision penned by Associate Justice Mario Lopez.
“Also, there is no substantial evidence showing that he acted with corrupt intentions, willfully intended to break the law or flagrantly disregarded the rules of disbursement process. Absent the elements of grave misconduct, Verdida can only be liable for simple misconduct,” the CA said.
He is liable for prejudice to service because he “opened up his office and the Municipal Government to doubts and unsavory insinuations of corruption and incompetence.”
“It tarnished the image and integrity of the municipality,” the CA said.
Seven individuals, including Verdida and Martinez, were charged with the Sandiganbayan because of the anomalous transaction but the implementation of the arrest warrants was put on hold to give the court time to rule on the motions to dismiss the cases.
Martinez is a member of the ruling Liberal Party. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)