Zamboanga del Sur municipal officials plead guilty to fraud

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    RATHER than face trial for corruption over alleged anomalous procurement of P4 million fisheries supplies in 2014, seven municipal officials of Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur have opted to plead guilty to a lesser crime before the Sandiganbayan First Division.

    In a decision promulgated January 24, 2020, the anti-graft court pronounced municipal accountant Eien Maning, municipal planning officer Ludivina Salazar, municipal engineer Alex Villarin, budget officer Elvira Emia, municipal planning and development officer Andres Limatoc, municipal secretary Merlinda Ambaic, and administrative aide Pilar Locop guilty of frauds against the public treasury and ordered them to pay a fine of P1,000 each.

    They were originally charged with graft last year together with then municipal mayor Roy Encallado and municipal health officer Arwin Alpha.

    Government prosecutors accused them of conspiracy in giving unwarranted advantage to Barcelona Spring Farm which was chosen as the supplier contractor to deliver P4.112 million worth of fish cages, fingerlings, and fish feeds.

    Graft investigators said the payment was released to the supplier even before the required inspection and acceptance in violation of the Government Procurement Reform Law and Presidential Decree No. 1445 or the State Audit Code of the Philippines.

    Encallado and Alpha entered into plea bargaining agreements with the Office of the Ombudsman in December 2019 and were allowed to plead guilty also for frauds against public treasury. The rest of the defendants followed suit.

    In a manifestation last December 5, 2019, the prosecution informed the court that it has obtained the approval of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to allow the accused to plea bargain for lesser offenses.