Ex-Masbate mayor gets 12 to 20 years, ordered to pay P26M fine over unliquidated cash advances

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The Sandiganbayan has convicted former Milagros, Masbate, Mayor Bernardito Abapo of malversation and sentenced him to 12 to 20 years in prison for failing to liquidate cash advances totaling P26.51 million.

In a recent 29-page decision, the court’s 7th Division also ordered Abapo to pay a P26.51-million fine and perpetually disqualified him from holding public office.

Prosecutors said Abapo had custody of the cash advances from January 2002 to December 2004, but failed to liquidate the amounts upon demand by the Commission on Audit (COA). The court said he never took the opportunity to explain his side.

“No explanation was heard from him why he was given cash advances, for what reasons these cash advances are and more importantly, how did he use them. Surprisingly, he did not even show receipts covering the expenses incurred from the cash advances made by him, if there be any,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Georgina Hidalgo.

The court noted that Abapo’s own witness, former municipal accountant Christie Aguas, testified that the liquidation was not completed because the slips and vouchers were never submitted to her office.

Although the slips and vouchers were eventually found in the office of the Municipal Administrator, the court said that “fact remains that on record, neither liqudiation nor accounting of the cash advances were made.” This constituted abandonment or negligence in handling public funds.

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