Sandiganbayan fines ex-PhilRice exec P15k for P15.78-M car plan mess after plea bargaining

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 07 2020 04:31 PM

MANILA — The Sandiganbayan 6th Division has meted a former executive director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) a fine of P15,000 after pleading guilty to charges stemming from a P15.78 million car plan program in 2008.

Graft charges were initially filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against Ronilo Beronio as well as other agriculture officials for the car plan program that allowed PhilRice beneficiary-employees to obtain personal loans from the Philippine National Bank using the agency’s funds as deposit. 

Aside from allegedly setting up the guidelines for the car plan and entering into hold-over agreements with the PNB on behalf of PhilRice, Beronio himself was among the 10 beneficiaries, according to information filed by the Ombudsman.

The court noted that on May 14, 2019, Beronio pleaded not guilty to the three graft cases but on October 2 this year, he entered into a plea bargaining agreement with the prosecution.

“During the partial remote hearing on October 2, 2020, accused Beronio withdrew his plea of not guilty,” the court said.

After he withdrew his not guilty plea, Beronio entered a plea of guilty to the lesser offense of violation of Section 7 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public officials and Employees covering prohibited acts and transactions. 

Violation of the law is punishable either by imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding P5,000, or both.

The decision of the court promulgated on October 2, 2020 was penned by Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.