By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division refused to reopen the case of convicted Lantapan Mayor Teddy M. Pajaro of Bukidnon and reduce his prison sentence based on a recomputation of his penalties in accordance to the Revised Penal Code.
Pajaro, together with then Municipal Accountant Crispina Aben and Municipal Treasurer Flor Libertad, was found guilty of four counts of malversation and two counts of graft due to the misappropriation of P74,000 purportedly intended as financial assistance for different livelihood projects.
The three of them falsified disbursement vouchers and other supporting documents to make it appear certain individuals received the cash when they didn’t.
They also released P319,000 from November 1997 to March 1998, supposedly to be used as money for livelihood projects, even without the approval of the Municipal Budget Officer. There were also no supporting documents to facilitate the release of government funds, as well as any terms and conditions for its repayment.
Pajaro, Aben, and Libertad were sentenced to imprisonment of 13 years, one month and 11 days to 18 years, two months and 21 days of reclusion temporal for their first malversation charge. They each have to pay back the government P15,000.
For the second and third malversation charges, they were sentenced to reclusion perpetua and to pay a fine of P25,000 and P24,000, respectively. The last malversation charge sentenced them to eight years, eight months and one day of prison mayor to 13 years, one month and 11 days of reclusion temporal. They also have to pay P10,000.
Meanwhile, they were sentenced to six years and one month to 10 years for each of their two graft charges. They were also required to indemnify, jointly or severally, the total amount of P319,000.
Pajaro and Aben filed an urgent motion to reopen the case for the recomputation of penalties on September 17, 2018. They said they have served their sentence at the Bureau of Corrections (BOC) – New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City and the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong, respectively, until they were transferred to the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.
In their motion, Pajaro and Aben cited Article 29 of the Revised Penal Code and the old computation of the NBP. They hoped that they would be allowed to serve a minimum time of 16 years, two months and 20 days with Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA).
As of their filing, the two of them have each already served a prison sentence of over 18 years and six months.
The prosecution agreed to the recomputation of the penalties. However, the prosecution explained that even though their charges of malversation be reduced to falsification of public documents, the penalty is still prison mayor while the penalty for graft remains to be six years and one month to 10 years.
According to the prosecution, the release of Pajaro and Aben is still entirely dependent on whether they have fully served the terms of imprisonment for their crimes.
The Office of the Solicitor General further argued that the guidelines for modification of penalties should be filed with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) exercising territorial jurisdiction over the locality where the convicts are confined. They should also have a certified true copy of the decision sought to be modified.
For its part, the anti-graft court agreed with the OSG. “As correctly observed by the OSG, the petition for the recomputation of their penalties based on R.A. 10951 must be filed with the RTC exercising territorial jurisdiction over the locality where they are confined and must be accompanied by a certified true copy of the decision sought to be modified,” the resolution read.
The Sandiganbayan said Pajaro and Aben should file their petition before the RTC of Panabo City, Davao del Norte with the certified true copy of their decision.
The four-page resolution was written by Chairperson Alex Quiroz with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Bayani Jacinto.