Guilty!
Local Government

Guilty!

Jan 16, 2023, 4:35 AM
Joyce Kahano-Alpino

Joyce Kahano-Alpino

Writer

Sandiganbayan found a former Leyte Representative and an officer of the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) guilty of two counts of graft and two counts of malversation over the misuse of over P24 million in pork barrel.

Former Leyte Rep. Eduardo Veloso (3rd district) and legislative liaison officer Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana were sentenced to a total of 36 years to a maximum of 56 years imprisonment for the misuse by Veloso of P24.2-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2007 and are perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

“The court arrives at the inevitable conclusion that Veloso and Lacsamana acted with unity of purpose and through manifest partiality and evident bad faith,” the anti-graft court’s first division said.

OpinYon 8 tried to reach both Veloso and Lacsamana to get their side of the story, to no avail.

Both officials were also ordered to pay a fine of P24.2 million, the amount of the malversed public funds to a sham foundation.

In a 2017 indictment of the Ombudsman, Veloso was said to have specifically requested the TLRC as the implementing agency with a certain Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI) of Alfredo Ronquillo as a partner non-government organization (NGO).

Furthermore, the court said the NGO was chosen without undergoing the required public bidding to implement various livelihood programs and projects that were also found non-existent.

The Commission on Audit added that based on their observations, Aaron foundation had no financial capability to undertake the projects with a capital stock contribution of only P68,000.

To his defense, Veloso said he didn’t know AFPI, and only heard about it from other congressmen, whom he failed to identify in his testimony. Yet, he requested the Speaker then to release his PDAF to AFPI through the now-defunct TLRC.

Lacsamana who is paid and assigned to “ascertain that the supporting documents relating to the projects were signed, complete, and in order” failed to perform her job to check the qualifications of the foundation thus missing the “red flags” all pointing to AFPI as a “sham NGO.”

AFPI’s Alfredo Ronquillo who also played a part in the corruption had earlier died in the course of the trial.

While two of the accused were proven guilty, the Sandiganbayan acquitted the co-accused from the TLRC, namely former deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, chief accountant Marivic Jover, and group manager Francisco Figura.

The court stated that the acquitted officers simply relied on Lacsamana to have checked AFPI’s accreditation and legitimacy.

“On the contrary, these accused were able to show that they merely acted in the performance of duties, as supported by TLRC office circulars which specifically delineated the accused’s respective roles in the implementation of PDAF-funded projects.

“Moreover, accused Cunanan and Figura offered documentary evidence which showed that they raised with Ortiz (former TLRC Director General Antonio Y. Ortiz) their reservations on the TLRC policies pertaining to the implementation of the PDAF,” the court stated.

However, said officials were still ordered to pay the P24.2 million with Veloso and Lacsamana as civil liability.

“They still participated in the transactions, anyway,” they added.

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