NCMF execs plead guilty to lesser offenses

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    TWO officials of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos will no longer face trial for two counts of graft charges concerning alleged mishandling of a Mindanao lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2012.

    Defendants NCMF chief accountant Fedelina Aldanese and cashier Olga Galido entered into plea bargain deals with the Office of the Ombudsman which allowed them to plead guilty to lesser offenses with lower penalties.

    In a nine-page Decision, the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division pronounced Aldanese and Galido guilty of two counts of violations of Section 7 (a) of RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. The particular provision penalizes public officials for prohibited transactions.

    Rather than standing trial for two graft charges with the attendant risk of jail sentences of six to 10 years per case, the two NCMF officials were instead ordered to pay fines amounting to P5,000 per case or a total of P10,000 for each defendant.

    Based on the cases filed in 2017, P3.686 million from the PDAF of the late Maguindanao Rep. Simeon Datumanong was transferred in 2012 and 2013 to the NCMF which in turn released the funds to a non-government organization (NGO) identified as the Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, Inc (MLFI).

    Graft investigators said taxpayers’ money went to the NGO without the conduct of any public bidding as required under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Law.

    Also named co-accused in the cases were former NCMF Commissioner Mehol Sadain, acting chief Aurora Aragon-Mabang and private defendants Gracita Mascenon-Sales and Queenie Rodriguez, both of MLFI.

    During a hearing last September 13, Prosecutor Joshua Tan informed the court that Ombudsman Samuel Martires has approved the application of Aldanese and Galido to plea bargain.

    Upon re-arraignment the two withdrew their original Not Guilty pleas to the graft cases and entered a Guilty plea on the lesser offenses.