The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has affirmed the conviction of a former official of the Department of Education (DepEd) Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) for her failure to remit the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) contributions of DepEd employees worth P75.3 million back in 2004.
Former Regional Director Leovigilda P. Cinches was found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violating Section 52(g) of R.A. 8291 for failing to remit to the GSIS the amounts due for August to November 2004 – P18,068,932.73 on August, P19,028,193.69 on September, P18,993,527.87 on October, and P19,294,516.72 on November.
She filed a Motion for Reconsideration, arguing that her constitutional rights were violated because the Ombudsman singled her out for prosecution.
She said the problem was deeper than the failure of a mere officer in charge to sign the checks, and the Ombudsman should have looked “deeper” into the case.
Cinches added that the prosecution did not present any adverse Commission on Audit (COA) findings or any show cause letter issued to her by her superiors for her alleged failure to sign the checks.
At the same time, Cinches said the prosecution’s evidence failed to prove that she had control over Deped-ARMM funds, and was responsible for the actual remittance of GSIS premiums and loan amortizations.
However, the anti-graft court denied her motion for being devoid of merit.
“The prosecution proved the accused’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt. That there were others who also committed [the same violation] should not result in her exoneration,” the court said.
The court likewise stressed that Cinches was an officer involved in the collection of premium contributions, loan amortization, and other accounts due to the GSIS.
“The accused has failed to convince this Court that reversal of the assailed decision is warranted,” it concluded.
The nine-page resolution was written by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.
Cinches was sentenced to imprisonment of two years as minimum to three years as maximum for each of the charges, and she was also ordered to pay a fine of P20,000 for each of the charges or a total of P80,000.
The anti-graft court likewise imposed upon her absolute perpetual disqualification from holding public office or from practicing any profession or calling licensed by the government.
Meanwhile, Cinches was acquitted of her graft charge for failure of the prosecution to prove her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
In its September 29 ruling, the anti-graft court said that Cinches should be held liable for failing to remit the GSIS contributions because it was part of her responsibilities as Director of Administration, Finance and Other Support Services at the time.
Even when she was assigned as Regional Secretary officer-in-charge, the court said that she was still involved in the collection and remittance of the said amounts.
“Designation connotes merely the imposition of additional duties, upon a person already in the public service by virtue of an earlier appointment or election,” the decision read.