MANILA - Former Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral on Friday pleaded not guilty to four charges against her in connection with the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of dismissed Cotabato Vice Governor and former Cotabato Rep. Gregorio Ipong.
Cabral’s lawyer initially asked the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division to consider her conditional arraignment, earlier done as a requirement prior to traveling abroad, as her regular arraignment.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and 3rd Division Chair Amparo Cabotaje-Tang refused the request.
“It is the policy of the court to require the accused to undergo regular arraignment,” Cabotaje-Tang said at the hearing.
Cabral is facing two counts of graft, one count of malversation and one count of malversation through falsification for entering into a memorandum of agreement, together with Ipong, with non-government organization Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation Inc. without public bidding.
Two other former DSWD officials, Mateo Montaño and Leonila Hayahay, pleaded not guilty to the same charges.
According to the charge sheet of the Office of the Ombudsman, the cases involve two transactions, one worth P6.5 million and another worth P2.8 million.
Cabral is facing similar cases involving the PDAF of two other former lawmakers: ex-Caloocan City Rep. Luis Asistio and ex-Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong.
Meanwhile, the arraignment of Bohol 3rd District Rep. and former Agriculture Sec. Arthur Yap also before the 3rd Division was re-scheduled to Jan. 19 because of his pending motion for reconsideration on the finding of probable cause and motion to quash.
Yap is accused of two counts of graft and two counts of malversation of public funds in connection with the supposed misuse of P62 million in "pork barrel" funds of former Misamis Occidental 1st District Rep. Marina Clarete.
Both Yap and Cabral served in the cabinet of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.