Former Social Welfare secretary Esperanza Cabral, former undersecretary Mateo Montaño, and former chief accountant Leonila Hayahay have pleaded not guilty to charges of graft, malversation, malversation through falsification.
They entered not guilty pleas during their arraignment before the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division on Friday afternoon.
Cabral, Montaño, and Hayahay were earlier charged by the Office of the Ombudsman along with dismissed North Cotabato Vice Governor Gregorio Ipong over the alleged misappropriation of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) worth P9.4 million in 2007 when Ipong was a congressional representative.
Roberto Solon, who allegedly “operated and/or controlled” the Economic and Social Cooperation for Local Development Foundation Inc. (Ecosoc) then, was also charged. Solon is at large.
Meanwhile, the court has scheduled Ipong’s arraignment on December 1.
According to the charge sheets, Ipong allegedly endorsed the “unaccredited and unqualified” Ecosoc as project partner in the implementation of the “Integrated Social Development Project [Health, Capacity Building, and Capital Assistance] [KALAHI-CIDSS].”
Kalahi-CIDSS, or Kapit-bisig Laban Sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, was one of the government’s poverty alleviation programs implemented by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.
Ipong, Cabral, and Solon allegedly then entered into a memorandum of agreement on the implementation the PDAF-funded project.
The Ombudsman alleged that “Montaño also facilitated, processed and approved the disbursement of the subject PDAF release” by signing two disbursement vouchers “along with Hayahay, thus certifying that the documents are complete and proper, with Solon then depositing” two checks in the amount of P2.82 million and P6.58 million, respectively, “to ECOSOCs accounts, without” the accused then-DSWD officers and then-employees “having carefully examined and verified the accreditation and qualification of ECOSOC as well as the transaction’s supporting documents.”
It also alleged that “[b]y their above acts, Cabral, Montaño and Hayahay…allowed Solon…to take possession and thus misappropriate PDAF-drawn public funds, instead of implementing the PDAF-funded projects” which allegedly “turned out to be non-existent.”
Further, it alleged that Solon “issued official receipts, participated in the preparation and signing of the acceptance and delivery reports, disbursement reports, project proposals and other liquidation documents to conceal the” supposedly “fictitious nature of the transaction, to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines.”