TWO employees of a shipping line in Davao City are facing qualified theft charges before the Regional Trial Court (RTC) after they allegedly defrauded the company of over P35 million in 2008.

Facing 51 counts of qualified theft through falsification of documents are Tirso Tan, former branch manager of Sulpicio Lines, Inc. (SLI)-Davao, and Fely Sobiaco, former cashier of the same company.

Prosecutor Joseph Mamburam found probable cause to charge the two based on the complaint filed by Alex Te, an accounting officer of SLI-Davao.

Te, in his affidavit, said he found out about the irregularities in the use of company funds upon conducting an examination of the records of SLI-Davao sometime in December 2009.

He said he uncovered during an audit of funds that there were numerous double disbursements and overpriced vouchers on single transactions based on the Philtrust Bank checks signed by Tan and Sobiaco which amounted to a total of P35,595,227.06.

The complainant cited that he first discovered the discrepancies in the 34 checks worth P23,695,395.93 signed by the respondents and were withdrawn by a certain Heidi Pelayo, an accounting officer of SLI-Davao.

"On several occasions, respondents Tan and Sobiaco made unauthorized disbursements of funds of SLI-Davao Branch. Pelayo, in turn, encashed the checks without the corresponding vouchers to support the withdrawals. In short, the checks were not accounted for and were delivered to SLI-Cebu Main Office for accounting and reportorial purposes," Te claimed in his affidavit.

He also said the respondents intentionally avoided to report the disbursements and vouchers to their central office and Te only found out about the checks through the copies of the microfilm from the Philippine Clearing House Corp.

The accounting officer cited that the respondents authorized the issuance of 13 checks worth P7,637,017 and another transaction of five checks worth P4,262,814 this time in connivance with a certain Carmencita Josol.

The complainant further accused the two of issuing another check with a Maybank account.

Tan and Sobiaco were served with a preventive suspension in May 2010 to pave the way for further investigation. But Te said there was an implied admission to the offense when Sobiaco reportedly agreed to make an initial payment of P20 million based on a Compromise Agreement dated March 5, 2010. Sobiaco also said she will also be shouldering the other losses that will surface after the investigation.

True enough, Sobiaco issued a manager's check worth P20 million which was deposited to another account of SLI-Davao.

The case is currently being handled by RTC Branch 10, but presiding Judge Retrina Fuentes is yet to order the arrest of the two.