FORMER Tanudan, Kalinga municipal mayor Francisca Cawi is getting off a malversation of public funds conviction after he opted to enter into a plea bargain deal with the Office of the Ombudsman and plead guilty to a lesser offense.
In a decision dated November 29, 2019, the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division found Cawi guilty of violation of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) which penalizes failure by an accountable public official to render accounts.
Cawi was meted a mere fine of P6,000 in lieu of standing trial for allegedly pocketing cash advances worth P2.905 million drawn from June 2004 to June 2007.
Prosecutors said Cawoi failed to liquidate and account for her cash advances despite demand by proper authorities for her to do so giving rise to the presumption under the RPC that she embezzled the money by converting the funds for her personal benefit.
Case records showed her total cash advances reached P5.324 million which was only partly liquidated leaving a balance of P2.905 million.
The Commission on Audit (COA) cited the former mayor’s violation of COA Circular No. 97-002 and section 339 of the Local Government Code which set the number of days for public officials to submit liquidation of funds under their custody or refund the sums if unspent.
Cawi at first tried to seek dismissal of the case on two grounds: inordinate delay and defective information but was overruled by the Sandiganbayan on both counts.
A month after the arraignment last October 11 in which she submitted a “Not Guilty” plea, she filed a manifestation and Omnibus Motion asking to be allowed to withdraw her original plea so she could plead guilty to a lesser offense.
Prosecutors Jackson Domantay and Alexie Jabe Tadeo confirmed to the court that Ombudsman Samuel Martires gave his approval to the plea deal as well as that of the COA as required by the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.