NOT even a magnitude 7.2 earthquake and the world’s strongest typhoon in 2013 that destroyed many public records posed a problem for former Mandaue City administrator Serafin Blanco when it came time to prove his innocence in court.
The local official’s meticulous records-keeping enabled him to present proof that he submitted a full liquidation of his P500,000 cash advance drawn in 2001 for that year’s Christmas party for city government employees.
In a 39-page decision promulgated January 22, 2021, the Sandiganbayan Sixth Division acquitted Blanco of graft and malversation charges filed against him in 2014 by the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged failure to account for P189,600 public fund that was part of his cash advance.
Blanco was accused of failure to submit documents showing that the sum of P189,600 was spent properly as intended, prompting the Office of the Ombudsman to file criminal indictments alleging that he converted the money for his own benefit.
Prosecution witnesses testified that the defendant’s liquidation report was not accepted in full because three receipts were questioned in audit due to lack of date of transaction, erasures, and a missing signature.
Six years after the event, Blanco received a demand letter from the city accountant in 2007 forcing him to trace the traders who issued the receipts so he can correct the discrepancies.
The three establishments certified the legitimacy of the transactions and he attached these to a memorandum containing his explanation. He never knew the memorandum and the corrected receipts were never recorded.
On August 20, 2013, he went to the Commission on Audit after he received a second demand letter from over the same P189,000 unliquidated cash advance.
In October 2013, a 7.2 magnitude earthquake struck Central Visayas. A month later a super typhoon devastated Eastern, Central and Western Visayas.
“The said official receipts were no longer available because the City Accounting Office of Mandaue City sustained damages from the earthquake of October 2013 and typhoon Yolanda in November 2013. The Court agrees with the Prosecution that undue injury but though no fault of the accused” the Sandiganbayan said.
The court noted that Blanco was able to submit his letters to the accounting office, photocopies of the replacement receipts, and his memorandum to the accounting office all of which dovetailed with his defense that he was not negligent in performing his duties.