Sandigan upholds conviction of NFA worker in P5-M malversation

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MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the ruling of an Albay court convicting a local National Food Authority (NFA) employee for malversation over failure to account for more than PHP5 million worth of missing stocks.

In a 16-page decision, the Sandiganbayan’s 1st Division, through Associate Justice Geraldine Faith A. Econg, upheld the judgment of the Ligao City, Albay Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 14 under Judge Edwing C. Ma-alat against Maria Concepcion M. Serrano.

The court sentenced Serrano, then a senior grains operations officer and warehouse supervisor, with up to 19 years imprisonment and ordered her to pay back the value of the missing grain amounting to PHP5.138 million.

The malversation was discovered during an examination of records of stock availability at the NFA-run warehouses in Ligao City in 2011 from 1997 to 2003.

The inspection uncovered shortages of up to 203,000 kg. of local rice, 14,333 kg. of palay (unhusked rice), 16,584 kg. of DKB (darak), 4,200 kg. of imported sugar, and 3,200 kg. of seeds.

The accused did not contest the findings of the examination and instead paid PHP90,000, prompting the NFA to file a complaint against her before the Office of the Ombudsman, which found probable cause to charge her with malversation.

Charged before the court, Serrano attributed the stock shortages to among other things, the dilapidated condition of the NFA warehouse, which she claimed made it susceptible to robbery and theft, along with its proximity to rice fields, which made it accessible to pests.

Ruling against her appeal, the anti-graft court said, “Having established that warehouse stocks amounting to PHP5.13 million was in her custody by reason of her public position, it was incumbent upon her to produce the same upon demand or explain its whereabouts.”

“Failing in which, the presumption of malversation arises, as there is no competent evidence to rebut the same, the presumption stands and her conviction consequently upheld,” it added. (PNA)

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