By Benjamin Pulta
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan sentenced a former Department of Education (DepEd) official to 17 years in jail for malversation of public funds.
In its 32-page decision dated January 17 released Tuesday, the anti-graft court’s First Division through Associate Justice Geraldine Faith A. Econg also found Jesus Loretizo Nieves, former DepEd-9 regional director, civilly liable for the misused amount of PHP6.34 million.
Nieves’ co-accused accountant Marilou T. Toloso was acquitted. Associate Justices Efren N. De la Cruz and Edgardo M. Caldona concurred with the ruling.
The case involved the transfer in 2007 of PHP6.34 million from the Philippine Veterans Bank (PVB) account of the DepEd-9’s ATM payroll account intended for payment of the salaries of teachers to another PVB account.
Nieves, along with cashier Virginia Montero authorized the transfer. Montero died while the case against her remained pending.
The recipient PVB account was for the Belgian Integrated Agrarian Reform Support Program (BIARSP), a special project of DepEd project funded by the Belgian government.
Before the transfer of the PHP6.34 million from the payroll account, the BIARSP account had only PHP157 left as the project had been completed as early as 2003 and closure of the BIARSP account had been requested but not acted upon.
After the PHP6.34 million was transferred to the BIARSP account, the same was immediately withdrawn through a check. The sum has since remained unaccounted for.
Nieves claimed he had authorized the transfer of the money from the teachers’ payroll account to the BIARSP account, thinking that the amount was transferred into another account which he was made to believe by the late Montero was for teachers’ hazard pay.
The Sandiganbayan, however, did not believe his narration.
“The only apparent and logical reason that can be read from the actuations of Nieves is that he acted in evident bad faith with Montero and that they fully intend to commit fraud and take the amount of PHP6.34 million from the public coffers. After all, there is no coherent reason for one to transfer funds to an empty account like the BIARSP, only to have the same withdrawn on the same day, if not for the purpose of concealing the misappropriation,” the court said.
The anti-graft court concluded that since the BIARSP account was no longer used and was even closed in the books of DepEd, the accused “took the chance that any disbursement from it would no longer be monitored.” (PNA)