Padaca’s conviction for malversation upheld
Elizabeth Marcelo (The Philippine Star) - September 1, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has upheld the conviction of former Isabela governor Grace Padaca for malversation in connection with the anomalous award of a P25-million agricultural project to a private organization in 2006.

In a 32-page resolution promulgated on June 23 and posted on the anti-graft court’s website recently, the Sandiganbayan Third Division denied for lack of merit Padaca’s motion for reconsideration.

In the same resolution, however, the anti-graft court’s Third Division granted Padaca’s appeal of her conviction for violation of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The court’s new ruling will shorten Padaca’s jail term to up to 14 years from a maximum of 24 years imposed in the original decision.

In its November 2019 decision, the Sandiganbayan sentenced Padaca to 12 to 14 years in prison for the malversation case. She was also perpetually disqualified from public office and fined P18 million.

For the graft case, Padaca was sentenced to six to 10 years in prison.

She remains free on bail.

Filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2011, the cases stemmed from the awarding of a P25-million contract for a hybrid rice program to non-government organization (NGO) Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. (EDWINLFI).

The ombudsman said Padaca awarded the contract in February 2006 without a public bidding as required under RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.

The contract was awarded to EDWINLFI based on a 2006 memorandum of agreement (MOA), which was ratified by the provincial board on Jan. 31, 2007, the ombudsman said.

The EDWINLFI failed to liquidate P3.6 million of the fund that should have been disbursed as loans to farmers, while P18 million was listed under loan receivables, it added.

Padaca earlier insisted that no compensation was given to EDWINLFI and that the entire amount was received by the farmers through loans.

In its new ruling, the Sandigan said there was no provision in the MOA about the supposed loan scheme.

The court said Padaca’s allowing the NGO to take public funds without any scheme for repayment made her liable for malversation.

On the graft case, the court noted that the allegation was based on the supposed lack of public bidding before the project was awarded.

The court said the selection of the EDWINLFI as NGO-partner of Isabela in the implementation of its rice program did not require a public bidding as the transaction did not involve procurement.

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