Sandiganbayan reduces fine, jail term for court clerk

By: Gerome Dalipe

THE Sandiganbayan has reduced the fine imposed on a former court clerk from San Jose town in Antique, who was found guilty of pocketing P87,200 in the fiduciary fund in 2004.

The anti-graft court’s 5th Division granted the motion of Jingkey Nolasco, then chief clerk of the Municipal Trial Court in San Jose, who sought to reconsider the court’s ruling ordering her to pay P87,800 as fine for two counts of malversation of public funds.

Instead of P87,800, the court ordered Nolasco to pay P60,000 as fine. Likewise, the anti-graft court reduced the jail term imposed on Nolasco from 16 to 6 years for two counts of malversation of public funds.

“In malversation of public funds, the payment, indemnification or reimbursement of the funds misappropriated may be considered a mitigating circumstance being analogous to voluntary surrender,” read the Sandiganbayan’s resolution penned by Associate Justice Maria Theresa Arcega.

The Sandiganbayan found Nolasco and lawyer Ma. Monina Misajon, former presiding judge of the Municipal Trial Court in San Jose, Antique, guilty of two counts of malversation of public funds for pocketing P87,200 in the fiduciary fund in 2004.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA), which accused Misajon and Nolasco of conspiring to pocket the fiduciary fund totaling to P87,800.

The respondents reportedly connived to over withdraw the cash bail bonds and did the withdrawals without supporting documents.

The misappropriated fund was discovered after Nolasco failed to turn-over the original copies of financial records of the trial court to Arlyn Minguez-Medina, the court interpreter and financial custodian.

State auditors conducted post-audit and cash examination on the cash and accounts of Municipal Trial Court in San Jose, Antique for the period May 21, 2001, to Feb. 7, 2005.

The auditors discovered that Nolasco and Misajon were the authorized signatories for the court’s Landbank savings account.

In its decision dated March 4, 2009, the Supreme Court found Nolasco guilty of gross dishonesty and grave misconduct, thus, she was dismissed from service.

The High Court also ordered Nolasco and Misajon to jointly pay the missing P87,800.

Replying to the charges, Misajon denied accusations that she conspired with Nolasco in over-withdrawal from the Fiduciary Fund on June 11, 2004.

She also denied charges that she borrowed the excess amount for her trip to Davao City for the cremation, wake, and burial of her sister.

Likewise, Misajon said she served the judiciary “faithfully and with all honesty and integrity” and that she had not enriched herself while in office as evidence of her simple lifestyle.

For her part, Nolasco offered to enter a guilty plea based on the supposed pocketed public funds of P40,000.

In the decision, the Sandiganbayan ruled that Misajon and Nolasco are guilty of two counts of malversation of public funds penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.

“Undoubtedly, accused Misajon displayed gross negligence in the discharge of her duties, which is a flagrant violation of her oath as a holder of public office,” the decision read.

The anti-graft court sentenced Misajon of up six years and six months in jail. She was also ordered to pay a fine of P87 800 and barred her from working again in government.

On the other hand, the Sandiganbayan ordered Nolasco jailed of up to 16 years for two counts of malversation of public funds. She was also ordered to pay P87,800 as fine and prohibited her from employment in public office.

Nolasco, in her motion, argued that the court should reconsider its ruling when she reimbursed the fund subject of the case.

In the resolution, the Sandiganbayan ruled that Nolasco’s voluntary surrender of the amount subject of the cases may reduce the prison term.