A FORMER Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (Armm) Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) regional secretary, together with two other DAR-Armm officials, was convicted for failure to remit the office's share to the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS) and the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-ibig).

According to a statement published on the Office of the Ombudsman's website on June 19, convicted were former Armm vice governor and DAR regional secretary Datu Guimid Matalam, along with DAR-Armm cashier Ansarry Lawi and Accountant Naimah Unte who were found "guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 52 (g) of Republic Act (RA) 8291 (Government Service Insurance System Act)" for failure to remit the GSIS and Pag-ibig funds amounting to P2,418,577.33 and P149,100, respectively, from January 1997 to June 1998."

In a 35-page joint decision, the Sandiganbayan said the three were "sentenced each to suffer the penalty of one year to three years imprisonment, P20,000 fine, absolute perpetual disqualification from holding public office, and from practicing any profession or calling licensed by the Government."

Matalam was also found guilty of violation of Section 1, Rule XII of the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 7742 (Pag-ibig Universal Coverage Law) and was imposed a fine of P190,506.

He was directed to pay a penalty of three percent per month of the amounts payable computed from the date the contributions fell due and until full payment.

"The anti-graft court ruled that under RA 8291, Matalam, Lawi and Unte are accountable officers such that their refusal or delay in the payment, turnover, remittance or delivery of GSIS premiums within 30 days from the time that the same shall have been due and demandable constitutes a violation of the law," the statement read.

Officials and records from the Department of Budget and Management and Landbank of the Philippines likewise confirmed that a total amount of P12,113,242 was credited to the account of DAR-Armm from September 1997 to January 1998 under its FUND 101 where remittances of the government shares for GSIS and Pag-ibig Fund are deposited.

The court also ruled there was "no justifiable reason for such failure to remit having been presented and considering too that money for that purpose was already received and available." (KGL)