The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division has sentenced to a maximum of 40 years’ imprisonment former Zamboanga Sibugay Provincial Board Member Eric Cabarios for multiple malversation cases in connection with the misuse of funds for the Aid to the Poor Program in 2002.
The anti-graft court also meted him up to 10 years in jail for five counts of graft and ordered his perpetual disqualification from public office, according to a 45-page decision promulgated on August 30, 2016.
Cabarios was sentenced to 10 to 18 years in jail for two counts of malversation through falsification of public documents; 12 to 17 years, six to 13 years, and two to 10 years, respectively, for the remaining three counts of malversation through falsification of public documents, with perpetual special disqualification and ordered to pay a fine of P106,828.
“In the service of Cabarios’s sentence, the duration of his total imprisonment shall not exceed forty  years,” the court said.
Based on the ruling, the Commission on Audit found that Cabarios preempted the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office (PSWDO) by allegedly advancing payments to beneficiaries of the program.
The ruling cited an ordinance regulating the disbursement of the appropriation entitled Aid to the Poor, which mandates the PSWDO to prepare all appropriate documents for processing.
“Cabarios would have this court believe that he had the authority to advance his personal money to the beneficiaries of the program. He, however, testified” that there was no Provincial Board resolution authorizing him to advance his money and ask for reimbursement later as Aid to the Poor Program,” the court said.
Further, the court found that “the prosecution was also able to establish that twenty-nine (29) of the beneficiaries under the disbursement vouchers of Cabarios were considered fictitious or non-existing…”
Meanwhile, it archived the case against Cabarios’ co-accused Michelle Navalta, a former employee of the Provincial Council who remains at large. It ordered that an alias warrant be issued against her.
Trial of their co-accused James Revantad, also a former employee of the Provincial Council who recently resurfaced, has not begun.
REINA C. TOLENTINO