Sandiganbayan (File photo)

MANILA – A former Zamboanga del Sur town mayor escaped conviction for malversation of public funds but must pay a fine of PHP50,000 under a plea bargaining deal that saw him plead guilty to the lesser charge of failing to render accounts.

In its decision dated August 10, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division found Wilson Nandang, former mayor of Labangan, guilty of 10 counts of violating Section 218 (Failure of Accountable Officer to Render Accounts) of the Revised Penal Code (RPC) and ordered him to pay a fine of PHP5,000 for each count.

The graft court also granted the prosecution’s motion for the dismissal of 10 counts of violation of Article 217 (Malversation of Public Funds) against Nandang.

A plea bargaining agreement was approved by the Ombudsman for the malversation charges to be dropped after the accused entered a plea of guilty to a lesser charge.

In 2018, the Ombudsman said Nandang received 10 cash advances for travel expenses from January to August 2011, totaling PHP1,250,000.

Despite demands from the Commission on Audit (COA), he failed to liquidate and account for the cash advances.

Under COA Circular No. 97-002, cash advances for local travels must be liquidated within 30 days upon return of the official.

Under Article 217 of the RPC, malversation is committed by any public officer who, by reason of the duties of office, is accountable for public funds, and appropriates the same or takes or misappropriates public funds, wholly or partially.

On the other hand, Article 218 is committed by any public officer, whether in the service or separated therefrom, who is required by law or regulation to render accounts to the provincial auditor and who fails to do so for a period of two months after such accounts should be rendered. (PNA)