Ilocos Sur mayor gets 56 years for misuse of tobacco excise tax

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    CATALINA, Ilocos Sur Mayor Carlos R. Asuncion is facing 56 years in jail after he was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of eight counts of graft and four counts of malversation of public funds over the alleged misuse of P400,000 from the local government’s share in the Tobacco Excise Tax in 2012.

    Also convicted of two counts of graft and one malversation each were private defendants Mamelfa Amongol, Rosita Ragunjan, Virginia Rafanan and Genoveva Ragasa, who were identified as chapter presidents of the non-government group Bayanihan ng Kababaihan in Cabittaogan, Subec, Paratong and Sinabaan.

    The private defendants were sentenced to six years and one month for each count of graft and two years and four months for the malversation case or a total of 18 years each.

    Asuncion and the private defendants were also fined the sum equivalent to the amount taken out of the municipality’s coffers.

    Even if the Commission on Audit certified that the full amount was eventually returned after the issuance of notices of disallowance, the court said the crime was already committed.

    The Fourth Division noted that as a ranking public official, Asuncion was presumed to know that the Bayanihan ng Kababaihan chapters were not entitled to receive the subject funds due to lack of prior authority from the Sangguniang Bayan.

    “Such return (of the money), however, does not exculpate the accused herein because the crime of malversation of public funds was already consummated the moment when accused Asuncion…allowed the disbursement of public funds in favor of said accused Bayanihan ng Kababaihan chapter presidents,” the court pointed out.