MANILA — A former municipal mayor of Milagros town in Masbate has been sentenced to up to 20 years in prison by the Sandiganbayan after finding him guilty of having embezzled PHP26.5 million in cash advances in 2004.
In its ruling dated November 29, the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division through Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo found former mayor Bernardito Asibuque Abapo guilty of malversation of public funds and sentenced him to up to 20 years imprisonment.
Abapo was also fined the amount he appropriated for himself and was likewise perpetually disqualified to hold public office.
Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta and Zaldy Trespeses concurred.
The court noted that Abapo is an accountable officer, who received public funds at different times but unfortunately was not able to properly account for them up to this date. While he claimed to have initiated a liquidation of the sums, the same was not reflected in the municipality’s book of accounts, the court noted.
The court said while the accused was given an opportunity to explain his side and was called to a conference about these cash advances with the municipal treasurer Lorna Nunez and the municipal accountant, he could not account for the cash advances and more, did not have them in his possession when audited.
“Record shows that while he was given the opportunity to personally dispute the findings of the COA (Commission on Audit), he never took the witness stand to at least explain his side. To be more precise, no explanation was heard from him why he was given cash advances, for what reasons these cash advances are and more importantly, how did he use them. Surprisingly, he did not even show receipts covering the expenses incurred from the cash advances made by him, if there be any,” the court said. Benjamin Pulta / PNA – northboundasia.com