FOR close to three years, from January 2002 to December 2004, former Milagros, Masbate mayor Bernardito A. Abapo drew P26.51 million in cash advances without explaining where the money went and ignored demands for him to submit a liquidation report.
Last November 29, he had to face the consequences of his action after the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division convicted him of malversation of public funds for which he earned 12 to 20 years imprisonment.
Based on the 29-page decision penned by Associate Justice Georgina D. Hidalgo, the anti-graft court also slapped a perpetual disqualification order against Abapo, barring him from holding any other government position.
He was also ordered to pay a fine in the sum of P26,509,594.04, the same amount he spent without any explanation more than 15 years earlier.
“Wherefore … accused Bernardito Asibuque Abapo is found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of malversation of public funds,” the anti-graft court declared.
According to the case information filed in 2010, Abapo requested and received cash advances amounting to P26.51 million over a period of 35 months which he failed to account for despite repeated demands from the municipal government and the Commission on Audit.
Prosecutors accused him of misappropriating the money and embezzling it for his personal benefit.
The defense presented two witnesses, a former municipal accountant and a former municipal treasurer, who both claimed the defendant made liquidations for his cash advances.
During cross-examination and clarificatory questions from the court, however, the witnesses admitted the process was not completed since the supposed slips and vouchers never reached the Office of the municipal accountant.
“To be precise, accused Abapo could not exculpate himself from liability based on a bare assertion that a partial liquidation was made. Simply put, accused Abapo’s self-serving defense has no value at all,” the Sandiganbayan said.