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Sandiganbayan junks graft charges vs ex-TRC officials

PHILSTAR FILE PHOTO

THE PHILIPPINES’ anti-graft court has junked graft charges against former officials of the defunct Technology and Resource Center (TRC) over the release of more than P20 million to a group owned by a lawmaker. 

In a 51-page decision dated Oct. 14, the Sandiganbayan Second Division said government prosecutors had failed to prove the guilt of former TRC Deputy Director General Dennis L. Cunanan and Manager Francisco B. Figura. 

The two were accused of releasing P20 million of congressional funds from an Isabela congressman to the Aksyon Makamasa Foundation, Inc., owned by the lawmaker. The court said the officials had also expressed doubt about the fund release. 

“Even as Cunanan had been a signatory as then deputy director general in the two disbursement vouchers involving the priority development assistant fund (PDAF), he had unequivocally indicated his misgivings on the process of implementation, through the attention of group Manager Figura,” it said. 

The TRC, formerly known as the Technology and Livelihood Resources Center, was dissolved in 2014, according to a 2017 memo by the Department of Science and Technology. 

The malversation charges against the former officials were also dropped for lack of evidence. 

“Accused Figura and Cunanan are properly entitled to exculpation in light of the misgiving and protestation they timely raised with respect to the PDAF transactions.” 

In August, the court rejected a plea by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the so-called mastermind of the PDAF scam, to suspend malversation cases against her. 

She is under trial in a separate graft case involving the release of congressional funds worth P15 million for a nonexistent livelihood project in Nueva Ecija province. 

The PDAF allowed legislators to fund small-scale projects in their districts that fell outside the national infrastructure program and was voided by the Supreme Court in 2013 for being illegal. — John Victor D. Ordoñez

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