Tue, 18 Jan 2022

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has ordered an official of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to return transportation allowances as she was already issued a service vehicle.

The anti-graft court's Second Division found NIA department manager Virginia Atienza civilly liable and ordered her to return to the government the amount of PHP58,000 with interest.

The 20-page decision stated that even as the law excuses no one, the act "did not amount to a criminal because there is no sufficient evidence to show appellate acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith".

The December 6 ruling written by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. reversed and set aside the October 2019 ruling of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 97 that sentenced Atienza up to 10 years in prison each for 17 counts of violation of the Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Atienza was charged in 2011 for claiming a monthly transportation allowance of PHP3,000 from April 2007 to October 2008 despite having been assigned a service vehicle.

Under the Government Accounting and Auditing Manual, no official who has been granted transportation allowance by any government office shall be allowed to use government motor transportation and if a government vehicle has been used, a proportionate amount shall be deducted from the transportation allowance of the official concerned.

Atienza said she received the sums in good faith as it had been the practice by her predecessor, adding that since she received the monthly transportation allowance, she no longer availed of the 15 liters of gasoline to which she was entitled.

She argued that she spent the transportation allowance for gasoline, repairs, and maintenance, adding that the costs were usually higher than the allowance she was questioned for. (PNA)

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