THE Sandiganbayan has affirmed the conviction of a barangay treasurer in Cebu City, who pocketed P108,150 in public funds by falsifying public documents in 2002.

The anti-graft court’s Fourth Division affirmed the judgment of Regional Trial Court Judge Ester Veloso, who found Edwin Villarta, former Malubog barangay treasurer, guilty of three counts of falsification of public documents, a violation of Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code.

“In sum, the trial court correctly found appellant guilty as charged as it held: The court finds that the prosecution has duly proven all the aforementioned elements of the offense of falsification of public documents,” the Sandiganbayan ruled.

Villarta had denied defrauding the government or falsifying public records, saying he returned the missing funds intended for the “Clean and Green Project” of the barangay.

Court records showed that Villarta received and disbursed P108,150 supposedly for salaries of workers of the barangay’s Clean and Green project in August 2002. However, it was found out that the project never materialized despite the release of the funds.

State auditor Juliet Almeda, in her testimony, said they acted upon the request for an investigation endorsed to them by the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas.

During the investigation, Almeda said they discovered three vouchers indicating that Villarta received checks for the salaries of the workers. Villarta submitted the time book and payroll indicating the workers received their salaries.

Almeda said they talked to Malubog Barangay Captain Federico Bontilao and Villarta about the missing funds and the “ghost” project.

Almeda said that Villarta later admitted he disbursed the money for his personal use and the supposed project did not exist.

Almeda advised the accused to return the money, which Villarta complied with.

Bontilao, in his testimony, also confirmed the barangay project was not realized. He said he signed the vouchers because he trusted Villarta.

But Villarta, in his memorandum, said he “acted in good faith” when he disbursed the funds for the salaries of the workers. (GMD)