MANILA -- The Sandiganbayan convicted Sarangani Provincial Board Member Marlind Marcelo and former Assistant Provincial Veterinarian Nicolas Sunio for conspiring in the misappropriation of funds in support of fictitious non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
In a statement released Friday, the anti-graft court found Marcelo guilty of the complex crime of malversation through falsification of public documents, and Sunio guilty of falsification of public documents.
Marcelo and Sunio were convicted after the Sandiganbayan found that they falsified disbursement vouchers and supporting documents by making it appear that financial assistance was requested by the Datal Bila Multi-Purpose Cooperative (DBMPC), despite knowing that the cooperative was fictitious.
The criminal case against their co-accused, former Sarangani Vice-Governor Felipe Constantino, was ordered dismissed following his death.
Investigation showed that in 2003, the Office of the Ombudsman requested the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct a special audit on the alleged anomalies in Sarangani on the release of financial assistance to various NGOs and peoples' organizations.
Results of the special audit investigation disclosed that financial assistance rendered to various NGOs were fraudulent or illegal, and the projects were non-existent resulting to damage and loss to the government.
The COA audit team established that DBMPC had no certificate of accreditation from the Cooperative Development Authority and had also failed to submit its financial statements for the last three years.
More importantly, no Memorandum of Agreement was executed between DBMPC and the Provincial Government of Sarangani.
Constantino's former staff member and whistleblower Mary Ann Gadian testified that "she was assigned a 'special task' during employment in the office of accused Constantino" which consisted of creating fictitious cooperatives and falsifying documents relating to cooperatives as a means to get provincial funds for their personal use."
Another former staff member and whistleblower Sheryll Desiree Jane Tangan testified that she signed above the names of the representatives of DBMPC requesting financial assistance in the amount of P125,000.00 and that she signed the by-laws of DBMPC.
Marcelo was sentenced to suffer the penalty of reclusion perpetua and perpetual special disqualification, and was also directed to indemnify the Province of Sarangani in the amount of P129,450.00.
Sunio, on the other hand, was sentenced to four years, two months and one day of prision correccional maximum as minimum, to ten years of prision mayor medium, as maximum penalty, and to pay the fine of P5,000.00.
Meanwhile, another co-accused, former Provincial Accountant Maria Camanay remains at large.