'SA AKIN BA NAPUNTA ANG P25 MILLION?'
MANILA - Former Isabela governor Grace Padaca on Saturday said she was shocked by the decision of the anti-graft court on the alleged misuse of P25 million in agricultural funds filed against her.
"Sa akin ba napunta ang P25 million, hindi sa magsasaka? Ibinigay na po namin ang mga ebidensiya, ganyan pa rin ang nangyari that's why kahapon I did not even know what to say, what to think, what to feel," Padaca said in an interview with DZMM radio.
(Didn’t the P25 million go to the farmers? We gave them all the evidence and still this is what happened, that's why yesterday I did not even know what to say, what to think, what to feel.)
On Friday, the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division found Padaca guilty of malversation and graft and sentenced her to serve time in jail. The court handed Padaca a 12 to 14 year prison term for malversation and another 6 to 10 year term for graft.
Padaca, a former broadcaster, is a 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for government service. Four years earlier, she was elected governor, beating the incumbent from the Dy clan, a well-entrenched political family. During her term, she implemented a program providing subsidies to farmers and worked at restoring Isabela's fiscal credibility, the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation said on its website.
Some 11 years later, Padaca has found herself caught in a graft case telling a different story about her term as governor.
"Sabi ko later kay Atty. (Rogelio) Vinluan na parang ang sama-sama ko naman, parang ang dami ko namang kasalanan when the only thing that I did regarding the P25 million fund is nung pinirmahan ko po 'yung tseke para i-release na sa NGO na magma-manage nito, para ipautang sa mga magsasaka at para singilin after the anihan... wala na akong naging role after that," she said, referring to her counsel.
(Later I told Atty. Vinluan that it felt like I've done some really bad things when the only thing that I did regarding the P25 million fund was sign its release to an NGO that will manage the fund to be loaned to farmers which they would pay back after harvest. I didn’t have any role after that.)
Padaca said that she did not even think of the possibility that the anti-graft court would hand down a guilty decision against her.
"Because it was so hard to imagine for me 'yung ganitong [this] scenario pero [but] it happened. I was too shocked, I'm numbed. Ganun ang epekto sa akin (That was the effect on me)," she said.
She explained that the P25-million fund was loaned to farmers and several boxes of receipts and other documents would prove that the money indeed went to them.
"'Yung mga [ebidensiya na] dinala namin mukhang hindi naging importante sa pagtingin ng hukuman," she said.
(The evidence we brought seemed to have not mattered to the court.)
She clarified that in all these transactions, she had sought authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to enter into a memorandum of agreement with the NGO who would manage the loan program for farmers and this had the approval and was ratified by the Vice Governor and the same body.
"'Yun po ang naging papel ko, na humingi ng authority sa Sangguniang Panlalawigan, they gave it to me, they ratified the MOA, I released the check, the check was managed by the NGO," she said.
(That was my role, to get the authority from the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, they gave it to me, they ratified the MOA, I released the check, the check was managed by the NGO.)
The court approved the payment of double her P70,000 existing bond for her provisional liberty while her appeal is pending.
Padaca is expected to file a motion for reconsideration to reverse the verdict.