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Sandiganbayan convicts ex-Abra Institute president of graft raps

MANILA, March 27 (PNA) -- The Sandiganbayan has convicted a former president of Abra State Institute of Science and Technology (Abra Institute) of graft cases.

Santiago Labanen was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of two counts of violation of Section 3(e), and one count for violation of Section 3(g) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”.

He was also convicted of illegal use of public funds under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

In a 91-page ruling, Labanen was sentenced to imprisonment ranging from six to 10 years for each count of graft and was meted the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

In the event of separation from the service, the accused was ordered to restitute the full amount of his retirement benefits to the government.

He was also ordered to pay the total amount of PHP852,617.14 as indemnification and PHP36,000 as fine for the offense of illegal use of public funds.

Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman established that from 1987 to 1988, Labanen caused undue injury to the government when he facilitated the following unlawful acts:

-- irregular disbursement of PHP289,000 to cover expenses for the renovation of the girls dormitory when post inspection and audit of the Commission on Audit showed that only minor repairs worth PHP14,862.25 were made;

-- irregular disbursement of PHP310,380 to cover the renovation of the vocational building when only the ceiling was repaired;

-- absence of approved plans, specifications and programs of work for infrastructure projects;

-- absence of approval from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for the realignment of funds; and

-- irregular disbursement for the cost of repairs worth PHP140,328.85 on the Land Cruiser service vehicle.

“As head of agency, he is immediately and primarily responsible for all government funds and property pertaining to his agency. Exercise of reasonable care could have been enough to alert him that the projects suffer from documentary deficiencies, which expose the school to a financial overrun and post danger to ASIST employees and students who will use the buildings of questionable integrity. This duty is incumbent upon him as expected of a good father of a family,” the Sandiganbayan said. (PNA)
/PERFECTO T. RAYMUNDO

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