Another conviction from Sandiganbayan

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    ‘The Jaraula-Napoles case may be closed… but there are still a number of senators and representatives who have had deals with Mrs. Napoles and the judiciary is still saddled with work in these cases.’

    INURED as we are to any news about official corruption, many people are still interested in knowing whatever happened to the various big-time cases of graft and corruption in government, with the connivance of the private sector. One of these celebrated cases is that of Mrs. Janet Napoles, whose name had been synonymous to questionable wealth, official malversation, manipulation of government funds, thieves in the two legislative chambers’ dens, cheaters in the Department of Budget and Management, and launderers in the banking industry.

    The people, thus, appreciated this latest positive news — that the Sandiganbayan has convicted former Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Constantino Jaraula, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, and three others of three counts each of graft and malversation involving P28.8 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund they misused in 2007.

    The court found guilty of violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code or malversation of public funds the following: Jaraula, Napoles, Technology Resource Center group manager Ma. Rosalinda Masongsong Lacsamana, legislative liaison officer and sales and promotion officer V. Belina Concepcion, and private individual Mylene Encarnacion.

    They were all sentenced to a prison term ranging from six to 10 years in each of their graft cases, and imprisonment for each count of malversation ranging from 12 years and one day to 18 years, eight months, and one day.

    They were also ordered to pay as a group P28.8 million by way of civil liability in their graft conviction, and another P28.8 million as fine. They were also barred permanently from holding public office.

    In the case of Jaraula, he, alone, was found guilty of violating three counts of Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code or direct bribery. He was sentenced to a prison term ranging from four years, two months and one day to nine years, four months and one day. He was also ordered to pay a fine of P6 million, which is thrice the amount of P2 million he received in the form of rebates.

    In the same 103-page decision written by Associate Justice Edgardo M. Caldona and concurred in by Associate Justices Efren N. Dela Cruz and Geraldine Faith A. Econg, the Sandiganbayan acquitted TRC group manager Francisco Figura, chief accountant Marivic Jover, and internal auditor V and division chief Maurine Dimaranan of the graft and malversation charges filed against them. DBM officials Rosalinda Salamida Nunez, Lalaine Narag Paule, and Marilou Dialino Bare are acquitted of all charges for failure of the prosecution to prove their guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

    The charges stemmed from the endorsement of Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (CARED) as a partner in the implementation of Jaraula’s PDAF amounting to P28,800,000. The prosecution was able to prove that the respondents concealed the fictitious nature of their transactions and Jaraula even received kickbacks from Napoles.

    The Sandiganbayan said that flags should have been raised before CARED was chosen as the implementer of Jaraula’s supposed PDAF projects because it is an unqualified and unaccredited non-government organization.

    The Jaraula-Napoles case may be closed (although they may appeal to the highest court and are in fact suing the Sandiganbayan justices) but there are still a number of senators and representatives who have had deals with Mrs. Napoles and the judiciary is still saddled with work in these cases. We need to show our support for these judges who are doing the hard but necessary work.