Ex-La Union lawmaker cleared of ‘pork’ raps

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — Former La Union second district representative Thomas Dumpit Jr. has been cleared of graft and malversation charges filed against him in connection with the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel in 2008 amounting to P5.85 million.

In a 179-page decision promulgated on Tuesday, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division said the prosecution panel of the Office of the Ombudsman failed to prove the guilt of Dumpit and his co-accused.

“When the guilt of the accused is not proven beyond reasonable doubt, the presumption of innocence must be favored and exoneration must be granted as a matter of right,” the first division said.

Dumpit was acquitted of four counts of violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and two counts each of malversation of public funds and malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents.

Former officials of the defunct Technology Resource Center (TRC) – deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, group managers Francisco Figura and Maria Rosalinda Lacsamana, budget officer Consuelo Lilian Espiritu and chief accountant Marivic Jover – were also cleared of the charges.

The court also acquitted Flerida Alberto, president of the non-government organization (NGO) Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI) as well as Pio Ronquillo Jr. and Fe Magtira-Ronquillo, incorporators of Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI).

In filing the cases in 2017, graft probers said checks amounting to P450,000 and P5.4 million drawn from Dumpit’s PDAF were released to KKAMFI and AFPI, respectively. The ombudsman said the NGOs lacked the qualifications to implement the livelihood and agricultural projects of Dumpit for his district.

The ombudsman said the projects were awarded to the two NGOs without public bidding.

Dumpit’s co-accused falsified disbursement vouchers and several other supporting documents to make it appear that livelihood training seminars were held and livelihood technology kits were distributed to farmer-beneficiaries, the ombudsman said.

However, the court said the prosecution failed to establish bad faith and “manifest partiality” of the accused in choosing the two NGOs and in releasing the funds to them.

“There was also no evidence adduced to prove that accused TRC employees took the public fund and appropriated it for their own private benefit,” the first division said.

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