The Sandiganbayan acquitted former Chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Camilo Sabio, of three counts of embezzlement of public funds related to his alleged failure to liquidate cash advances totaling 632,428 pesos drawn between December 2008 and February 2009.
A fourth malfeasance case involving a separate cash advance of 350,000 pesos was earlier dismissed as faulty due to the lack of an investigator’s signature on certification that the case was investigated. proper preliminary investigation.
In the 40-page decision written by Associate Judge Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega, head of the anti-corruption court’s Fifth Division, said the prosecution’s evidence did not provide the required proof beyond all reasonable doubt to establish the guilt of the accused.
The court found that some of the main documentary evidence presented was “without any probative value” because it was not original but was “true copies of the photocopy”.
“While not imposing a standard of proof sufficient to establish absolute certainty, the quantum of proof required in criminal cases nevertheless places an immense responsibility on the Crown to establish moral certainty, a certainty which in the end of account appeals to the very conscience of the person”. said Sandiganbayan.
Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos and Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac agreed.
Based on criminal information filed in 2017, the Ombudsman’s Office accused Sabio of failing to account for cash advances in the amount of P250,000 released on December 15, 2008; P100,000 released Dec 23, 2008; and P282,428.03 of the P500,000 published on February 3, 2009.
Testifying in his own defence, Sabio said he never received a letter of formal notice from the Audit Commission requiring him to liquidate the cash advances or return the sums released.
At 80, he apologized for no longer being able to remember the documents referred to in the case, in particular the advances of funds since, as president of the PCGG, he was the only one authorized to sign them. He clarified that the money was strictly used for operating and litigation expenses.
He pointed out that during his tenure, the PCGG recovered 25.27 billion pesos in cash from the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their close aides.
The Sandiganbayan noted that the prosecution was only able to prove the first three elements of the offense charged – that Sabio was a public officer at the time, that he was a responsible officer and that the source of the advance of funds was public funds.
However, the court found there was insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant took or embezzled public funds for his own benefit.
During the trial, the Sandiganbayan noted discrepancies in the details of the documents presented as evidence, in particular the three disbursement vouchers whose numbers as presented in the information differed from the DV numbers testified by PCGG chief accountant Lourdes Navarro.
The amounts on the three DVs also did not match the documents identified by the same witness.
“The details of the DVs identified by Navarro were startlingly different from the accusatory part of the News (sic). The Court cannot condone the said inconsistencies as they relate to the main allegations against the defendant,” the Court said.