THE PHILIPPINES’ anti-graft court has convicted of graft a former representative of Leyte and an executive of the defunct Technology and Resource Center (TRC) over the release of P24.2 million for fictitious government projects.
In a 52-page decision on Jan. 9, the Sandiganbayan First Division sentenced former Leyte 3rd District representative Eduardo K. Veloso and former TRC group manager Maria Rosalinda M. Lacsamana to six to 10 years for the two counts of graft and 12-18 years for two counts of malversation.
“With the foregoing, the court arrives at the inevitable conclusion that the accused acted with unity of purpose and through manifest partiality and evident bad faith and caused undue injury to the government in the total amount of P24.20 million,” Associate Justice Efren N. Dela Cruz said in the ruling.
The tribunal ordered them to pay a fine of P24.2 million, the same as the amount malversed.
Mr. Veloso and Ms. Lacsamana could not be immediately reached for comment.
The decision can still be appealed before the anti-graft court and the Supreme Court.
The former congressman was accused of exclusively endorsing the TRC as the implementing agency for the proposed anomalous projects bankrolled through the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) given to lawmakers.
The PDAF, also referred to as pork barrel funds, has been abolished after the Supreme Court declared it as unconstitutional in a 2013 ruling.
The Sandiganbayan said the TRC official drafted and signed the memo that recommended the release of Mr. Veloso’s proposed funds to the Aaron Foundation Philippines, a partner non-government organization for the non-existent programs.
OTHER TRC EXECSMeanwhile, the court dropped the malversation and graft cases against former TRC executives Dennis L. Cunanan, Francisco B. Figura and Marivic V. Jover due to lack of evidence.
In October, the anti-graft court junked graft charges against the TRC officials saying government prosecutors failed to prove their guilt over the release of more than P20 million to a group allegedly owned by a lawmaker.
The court earlier rejected a plea by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the so-called mastermind of the PDAF scam, to suspend malversation cases against her.
She is under trial in a separate graft case involving the release of congressional funds worth P15 million for a nonexistent livelihood project in Nueva Ecija province.
The PDAF allowed legislators to fund small-scale projects in their districts that were not part of the national infrastructure program. — John Victor D. Ordoñez