Ex-Abra town mayor Castillo to be jailed for failure to liquidate P2.15M cash advances

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The Sandiganbayan has convicted former Baay-Licuan, Abra Mayor Aunnielyne Castillo of three counts of malversation of public funds.

The anti-graft court sentenced Castillo to be in prison from six to 11 years for one count of her violations and two to six years for each of the other two counts of her violations.

She was also ordered to pay a total fine of P2.15 million.

Court records showed that Castillo received a total of P2.15 million in cash advances from April 2001 to June 2001.

During a special audit conducted in 2002, the Commission on Audit found that the disbursement vouchers to support the checks issued to Castillo were missing.

Two demand letters were sent to Castillo on July 20, 2001 and Aug. 9, 2001, ordering her to liquidate the multi-million peso funds.

Despite these issuances, the cash advances remain unliquidated.

During the trial, Castillo admitted that she received two checks in her name amounting to P1.25 million and P260,000, and a disbursement voucher totaling to P644,141.79.

Castillo also admitted to encashing these checks.

In a 38-page decision written by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, the Sandiganbayan ruled:“It is palpable that accused committed irregularities in the usage and issuance of the cash advances drawn from municipal funds in violation of Section 339 of the Local Government Code of 1991 and COA Circular Nos. 92-382 and 97-002. In particular, no legally specified purpose was given for the issuance of the cash advances. Also, accused was not a permanently appointed official like a municipal accountant or municipal treasurer to be designated as disbursing officer.”

The anti-graft court added, “absent such purpose, and considering that the accused named herself as payee, the municipal funds essentially became her personal piggy bank, from which she could easily obtain cash and then utilize the same with unfettered discretion.”

“The crime of malversation is committed either with criminal intent to actually perpetuate it, or through negligence. Since the amount in question is public in character, Castillo had control of the funds as no checks or disbursement can be prepared without her signature and the treasurer. Upon demand by any duly authorized officer, the failure of a public officer to have duly forthcoming any public funds or property is a prima facie evidence that he or she had put such missing funds or properties to personal use,” the Sandiganbayan said. (PNA)

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