CA downgrades penalty of Pagcor exec over anomalous donations to anti-drug foundation

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The Court of Appeals (CA) has reduced the penalty imposed on a former finance executive of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) in connection with P120.24 million in anomalous donations to Batang Iwas sa Droga Foundation (Bida) from 2005 to 2009.

In a recent 12-page decision, the CA 8th Division downgraded the administrative offense of Estela Ramos, former vice-president of the Pagcor finance and treasury department, to simple misconduct and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.

Hence, Ramos was “fined in the amount equivalent to her retirement, leave and other benefits,” since she already retired in April 2013.

Ramos would still receive the balance left over after the deduction of the fine. The court also set aside the accessory penalties of perpetual disqualification from public office and cancellation of civil service eligibility.

The case concerned Ramos’s alleged indiscriminate cash advances from Pagcor’s intelligence fund which were diverted to Bida, a party-list group linked by the Ombudsman to then-chairman Efraim Genuino and other Pagcor executives.

Ramos allegedly funded illicit advertisements for Bida to promote its candidacy for the 2010 party-list elections, although it eventually failed.

The Ombudsman, in its December 7, 2015 decision, originally found Ramos guilty of the more severe offense of grave misconduct and dismissed her from government service.

However, the CA found “no substantial evidence to prove that the alleged anomalous cash advances were precipitated by Ramos with corruption or with a willful intent to violate the law.”

The court noted that the evidence only consisted of Ramos’s signatures on the check vouchers, which was not enough to conclusively prove she had a “corrupt mind or… willful intent to violate any applicable law.”

Still, the court said she should be held liable for the lesser offenses as she “should have been more circumspect” in performing her department’s duty to control Pagcor’s costs in line with its approved budget.

“In effect, the controversial cash disbursements tainted the public’s perception of her office,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Ronaldo Roberto Martin.

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