Sandiganbayan (File photo)

MANILA – The Sandiganbayan has sentenced three individuals to up to 40 years behind bars in connection with the graft and malversation charges involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of an Eastern Samar congressman.

The anti-graft court's Third Division convicted two former senior officials of the state-run National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), administrative manager Encarnita Munsod and general services unit head Romulo Relevo, and Margie Luz of non-governmental organization GabayMasa Development Foundation Inc.

The trio must also pay PHP4.85 million in fines subject to six percent annual interest until paid in full.

“(They) willingly went along with the ignoble scheme of accused Teodulo Coquilla by completing the act of embezzling the PDAF-drawn funds through the implementation of a fictitious and non-existent livelihood project,” the court said in its Sept. 2 decision.

Coquilla died in 2018, reportedly after a medical operation.

Co-accused Alan Javellana and Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, former Nabcor president and chief accountant, respectively; and GabayMasa’s Ma. Cristina Vizcarra are at-large and have standing arrest warrants.

The case began when GabayMasa was chosen as "project partner" in 2007 for the livelihood projects funded by the pork barrel allocation of Coquilla.

Prosecutors said the transactions were in disregard of the appropriation law and done without public and competitive bidding as Gabaymasa was unaccredited and unqualified to undertake the projects.

GabayMasa's business registration expired on March 17, 2003.

The charges also said certificates of acceptance and undated acknowledgment receipts were made to make it appear that the fictitious supplies were delivered to intended beneficiaries.

"The utilization of Coquilla's PDAF-drawn funds was undertaken irregularly and illegally," the Sandiganbayan said, noting that GabayMasa, aside from being unqualified, conducted fabricated concocted canvass and quotations from seedling suppliers. (PNA)