Sandiganbayan (File photo)

MANILA – After complying with the order to pay PHP5.96 million in restitution to the government, the Sandiganbayan slapped a fine of PHP16,000 on former Iloilo (2nd District) representative Judy Syjuco as part of a plea bargain agreement.

The deal reduced the 78-year-old Syjuco’s case to the lesser charges of fraud and failure of an accountable officer to render accounts from the original graft and malversation.

The Sandiganbayan ruling published online Tuesday imposed the fine after Syjuco asked to be allowed to plead guilty in October to the lesser charges which stemmed from the procurement of 1,582 units of mobile phones in 2005, allegedly sans public bidding.

The restitution of the amount cannot be considered as a circumstance which would further mitigate the accused's liability under the pleaded down charges, the court said.

Syjuco claimed that due to her age and several other ailments, such as recurrent falls, depression, anxiety, and mood irritability, there is a progressive deterioration of her mind and body which renders her mentally and physically unfit to attend and participate in court hearings.

She also claimed there was no proof that she received portions of the funds used in the transactions or in any way benefited therefrom and that it is in the best interest of everyone to end the litigation.

"The court holds that the restitution of the subject amount in these cases cannot be appreciated to mitigate the criminal liability of Syjuco because the said accused's restitution was a mere afterthought. In fact, it was a pre-condition imposed by the prosecution to stamp its imprimatur to the plea-bargaining agreement in these cases. Thus, the restitution of the amount of PHP5,964,859 by accused Syjuco was not purely voluntary or in the exercise of her good conscience," the graft court said. (PNA)