IT took a full decade but a former regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) was finally able to clear his name after he was acquitted of a malversation charge by the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division.
In the 27-page decision penned by Associate Justice Karl B. Miranda, the anti-graft court said that contrary to allegations, George Campeon did not commit malversation of public funds, whether intentional or through negligence.
“It is clear that the accused did not misappropriate the P59,800 or convert it to his personal use. The accused accounted for the full amount,” the Sandiganbayan said.
Based on the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011, Campeon was accused of converting 2,000 liters of boat fuel into cash in 2005 and spending the sum for his personal benefit.
Records showed 10,000 liters of diesel fuel for BFAR’s MCS (monitoring, control and surveillance) patrol boat was delivered to BFAR Region 11 on July 30, 2005.
With the boat’s tank still holding leftover fuel, however, the defendant was left in custody of over 2,000 liters of fuel that cannot be loaded.
Storage at the Davao Fish Port complex was also ruled out because the fees would be expensive and port management had barred volatile substances inside the compound to avoid contamination of unloaded seafood.
In his testimony, Campeon said he tried to get guidance from his superiors but his calls were left unanswered prompting him to decide to look for a buyer instead.
A private vessel docked at the port agreed to buy all 2,000 liters for P59,800.
The accused stored the amount in a vault since remitting it back to the general fund would deprive the MCS patrol boat of its full fuel allocation.
Boat crews then approached him for operating expenses such as food, medicine and personal items as they were about to go on an extended offshore operation against illegal fishing in the Davao Gulf.
Campeon said he took out P12,000 from the proceeds of the fuel sale and gave this to his men.
Two weeks later, P46,756.80 was used to buy additional fuel for the MCS patrol boat.
Finally, P13,043,20 in cash was remitted back to the Bureau of Treasury attested by an official receipt dated January 13, 2006.
Owing to these transactions, criminal and administrative complaints were filed against the BFAR regional director before the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao. While the administrative charges were dismissed, the malversation case went to the Sandiganbayan.
In acquitting Campeon, the Court pointed out that the sale of the diesel fuel is not even covered by allegations in the information as the charge was limited to the alleged conversion of the P59,800 for the defendant’s personal use.
It noted that a simple computation of the cost of refueling the patrol boat (P46,756.80) and the remaining sum remitted to the Bureau of Treasury (P13,043.20) showed that the entire proceeds of the fuel sale was fully accounted for.