2 convictions in 1 month: Ex-DepEd exec found guilty of graft over P95-million fund release

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 14 2020 04:24 PM | Updated as of Feb 16 2020 04:06 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division has sentenced a former Zamboanga Peninsula education official to 6 to 10 years in prison for each of 2 counts of graft for the irregular release of P94.8 million in government funds in 2007.

In a decision promulgated on Jan. 24, 2019, the court said the prosecution was able to prove that there was undue injury to the government and that unwarranted benefit was given to 2 private companies due to the gross inexcusable negligence of Jesus Nieves, former regional director of the Department of Education (DepEd) in the Zamboanga Peninsula.

It was the second graft conviction for Nieves in a month. In January, the Sandiganbayan also found him guilty of graft and malversation in connection with some P6.3 million in government funds.

In cases filed against Nieves, prosecutors said he caused the release of P48.7 million to Exquisite Enterprises and P46.1 million to Aphrodite Builders when in truth the funds were already obligated to utility companies PLDT and the Zamboanga City Electric Cooperative, Inc.

“It is thus clear from the records that the amount covered in the Notice of Cash Allocation was released but such disbursement was unwarranted as defined above considering that the payments to Aphrodite Builders and Exquisite Enterprises were lacking adequate or official support,” the court said in the decision penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera Jr. and Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna.

During trial, Nieves reiterated that he did not participate in the preparation of the obligation requests for Exquisite and Aphrodite and that he had no relationship whatsoever with the owners of the 2 business entities.

Nieves, meantime, was acquitted by the court in 2 malversation through falsification of public documents cases for the failure of the prosecution to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt as records showed he never received the funds nor did it pass his hands.

“Therefore, the presumption that the accused put the funds or property to personal use is negated,” the court said.

His co-accused, then chief accountant Mariloy Tolosa, was acquitted in all 4 cases while the cases against then budget officer Melchisedech Miguel and then administrative officer Virginia Montero were dismissed by reason of their death.