Sandiganbayan convicts ex-Abra mayor for P2.1M fund misuse
19 February 2018
The Sandiganbayan has convicted Baay-Licuan, Abra ex-Mayor Aunnielyne Castillo of three counts of Malversation of Public Funds (Article 217, Revised Penal Code). She was sentenced to imprisonment ranging from six years to 11 years for one count and two years to six years each for two counts. The court also ordered Castillo to pay a total fine of P2,154,141.79.
Court records show that Castillo received a total of P2,154,141.79 as cash advances from April 2001 to June 2001. During a special audit conducted in 2002, the Commission on Audit (COA) discovered that disbursement vouchers to support the checks issued to Castillo were missing. Two demand letters were sent to Castillo on 20 July and 09 August 2001 directing her to liquidate the multi-million peso funds. Despite these issuances, the cash advances remain unliquidated.
During trial, Castillo admitted that she received two checks in her name amounting to P1,250,000.00 and P260,000.00, and a disbursement voucher totaling to P644,141.79. Castillo also admitted to encashing these checks.
In a 38-page Decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, the court ruled that “it is palpable that accused committed irregularities in the usage and issuance of the cash advances drawn from municipal funds in violation of Section 339 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and COA Circular Nos. 92-382 and 97-002. In particular, no legally specified purpose was given for the issuance of the cash advances. Also, accused was not a permanently appointed official like a municipal accountant or municipal treasurer to be designated as disbursing officer.”
The Court added that “absent such purpose, and considering that the accused named herself as payee, the municipal funds essentially became her personal piggy bank from which she could easily obtain cash and then utilize the same with unfettered discretion.”
“The crime of Malversation is committed either with criminal intent to actually perpetuate it, or through negligence. Since the amount in question are public in character, Castillo had control of the funds as no checks or disbursement can be prepared without her signature and the treasurer. Upon demand by any duly authorized officer, the failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public funds or property is a prima facie evidence that he or she had put such missing funds or properties to personal use,” ruled the Court.
Malversation of Public Funds or Property is committed when any public officer who, by reason of the duties of office is accountable for funds or property, shall appropriate the same, or shall take or misappropriate, or shall consent, or through abandonment or negligence, shall permit any other person to take such public funds or property, wholly or partially. ###