LATE JUSTICE. Criminal charges of embezzlement of public funds and unlawful use of public funds against Virginio E. Villamor and Dina C. Barriga, then mayor and municipal accountant of Carmen, Cebu, involved a total of less than P300,000, committed from 1995 to 1997 or 25 to 27 years ago.
It took almost three decades for justice to resolve the issue: the Sandiganbayan decision enacted on May 23, 2022 and announced more than a week later. This no longer surprises but still annoys and irritates the public concerned.
The accountability mechanism has once again failed because of the delay. The two accused public officers also failed to obtain justice as it (a) did not resolve the charge against Mayor Villamor – who died on December 25, 2008, prompting the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges against him – and ( (b) delayed Barriga’s acquittal and thereby denied him the justice that anyone charged with a crime deserves.
It turned out that no one was sanctioned for the loss of public money and/or its alleged abuse. And the cloud of doubt about two public officers has hovered over their lives for so long.
NO ‘UNORDERED DELAY.’ The Sandiganbayan acknowledged the delay – for eight years the cases did not move forward – and on June 29, 2017 ordered the dismissal of the charges against Barriga and then denied prosecutors’ motion to reconsider.
The state filed certiorari with the Supreme Court, which overturned the anti-corruption tribunal’s decision and ordered it to rule on the merits. The reason: Barriga herself was “not faultless” for the delay. Barriga, the SC found, was uncooperative and launched numerous motions and petitions to stop the proceedings against her.
Both the state and Barriga contributed to the delay, and she was not allowed to benefit from the “undue delay” principle, which allowed a number of officials, including a few from Cebu, to get away with it. pull.
GHOST DELIVERY, DEVERSION. Sums were allegedly illegally paid by the municipality of Carmen:
— in January 1996, over 23,000 pesos, for five rolls of polythene pipe for the city’s water system, allegedly paid to New Carmen Lumber for the city’s water system, but the money allegedly been used for an employee Christmas party;
— In November 1995, P1,305, for the source box of a barangay not covered by the city water supply project financed by the CVWSPTF or the Central Visayas Water and Sanitation Project Trust Fund;
— In January 1997, more than 267,000 pesos, for the construction and expansion of a water system, which was not covered by the same trust fund, CVWSPTF.
The town’s mayor and the town’s accountant were implicated in a case of embezzlement and two cases of illegal use of public funds.
Only the first expense was a case of phantom delivery: no pipes were delivered, the money would have been spent on a Christmas party for the “munisipyo” employees. The second and third counts related to the alleged use of funds for purposes not covered by the trust fund that paid for them.
WHAT HAS NOT BEEN PROVEN VS. ACCOUNTING. The anti-corruption court said ombudsman prosecutors failed to prove accountant Barriga conspired with Mayor Villamor. There was “no overt act” by Barriga, the ruling said. The overt act is the physical activity or act that indicates the “intent to commit” the crime.
Moreover, Barriga was not a responsible officer. His duty did not require “possession or custody of local government funds” to be “accountable and responsible” for their custody.
When does a public official become liable? Because of the nature of his duties or because of his involvement in the application or use of public funds. Accountant Barriga did neither, the Sandiganbayan ruled.
Barriga could never have been responsible at that time and therefore could never have committed embezzlement? Only if she (a) received public money that she was required to account for or (b) conspired with a responsible public officer to commit embezzlement or unlawful use of public funds.
Apparently neither has been proven by prosecutors. She did not misappropriate or consent, through abandonment or negligence, or permit another person to take public funds into her custody. The voucher did not show that Barriga received the money or used it to buy Christmas gifts or used it for personal purposes.
Her signature on the disbursement slip was apparently not sufficient to make her liable.
ON THE ALLEGED DISCHARGE OF FUNDS, or their unlawful use, Barriga escaped liability because there was no evidence that the money had previously been appropriated by law or ordinance for a specific purpose and had been diverted to another purpose . If erroneous billing occurred, it was not Barriga’s fault.
More destructive against the prosecutors’ case was that the Carmen Sanggunian did not issue an order for the use of the CVWSPTF. Apparently, it was not enough that when the money was uploaded to Carmen, it specified the source and the purpose. The Sandiganbayan shall mean the specification of the barangays for which they can be used. Mayor Villamor had testified that the ordinance did not say the money could not be used for other purposes.
DEFENSE OF THE MAYOR. Mayor Vllamor served the city, the court heard, for 13 years as mayor and three years as deputy mayor, cutting short his last term as chief executive when his health deteriorated and he was deceased. He testified that he technically did not embezzle the amounts, saying the order did not specify that the CVWSPTF could only be used for the “appropriate level of the project.”
An interesting part of his defense was that a mayor couldn’t read every document he signed; some he read in full, many others he didn’t. The mayor said he had to rely on aides and other public officials going through the documents. Villamor said he was aware of his liability arising from his signature, without which the money could not be released.
The Sandiganbayan decision no longer dwelt on the responsibility of the mayor after he dismissed the charges against him.