• Ex-ambassador found guilty of malversation

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    The Sandiganbayan’s First Division has found former ambassador Masaranga Umpa guilty beyond reasonable doubt of three counts of malversation.

    The anti-graft court sentenced Umpa to 17 years imprisonment and perpetual disqualification to hold public office.

    However, the court, taking into consideration the lack of aggravating circumstance and the presence of mitigating circumstance of voluntary surrender, recommended Umpa’s pardon.

    “While it is obliged to apply the penalty provided for the offense charged, (the court) believes that it is too harsh and excessive under the circumstances, hence, pursuant to Article 5, paragraph 2, of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, hereby recommends to the Chief Executive, through the Department of Justice, for the commutation of the penalty, if not pardon of the accused, in these cases.”

    “Considering also that accused Umpa did not fall short in his duties to the country especially under such a high risk and life-threatening operation that involved the rescue and repatriation of our 25 countrymen who were held captives in that rebel-infested area in Nigeria, considering further his long years of service to the country in different branches of government, and finally considering that he has been found guilty of the crimes charged herein only through negligence and his age of 73 years, now that he is condemned under the law to suffer a total penalty of at least 30 years of imprisonment,” the court said.

    Umpa, the country’s Ambassador to Nigeria from 1996 to 2008, was accused of permitting another person through negligence to misappropriate Assistance to Nationals (ATN) Stand-by-Funds in 2007.

    As head of a post in the DFA and head of the team that monitored and negotiated for the rescue and repatriation of 25 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who were kidnapped in in Nigeria on January 20, 2007, Umpa was entrusted with the ATN funds.

    “The Court is not unmindful of accused Umpa’s work in the release and repatriation of our kidnapped countrymen but such commendable effort does not also exculpate or relieve him from his responsibility for the missing ATN funds,” the court said.

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