The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has acquitted a Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) personnel who was charged with graft for allegedly failing to deposit USD15,805 embassy funds to the DFA’s bank account. Saula Payumo Cruz had been assigned as a finance officer in the Philippine Embassy in Brunei from 2000 to 2006 and charged with graft for allegedly failing to deposit the sum representing a number of transactions over a number of days. She was subsequently charged for malversation and graft in 2010 after an audit in 2006 showed that some collections for the month of May 2006 were not deposited by Cruz in the bank. Cruz, who had denied stealing the money, claimed there could have been a discrepancy between the cash deposited in the bank and the official cashbook of the embassy. She claimed that such unintended discrepancy happens in other embassies due to the numerous transactions especially when there is a limited number of personnel, and wrong entries and wrongful deposits occur. In a memorandum dated March 23, 2012, Cruz was suspended for six months for violating reasonable accounting rules and instructing her to execute a statement allowing deductions from her salary to offset the discrepancy amounting to PHP750,000. In May 2021 the Pasay regional trial court convicted Cruz for graft and sentenced her to up to nine years imprisonment prompting the appeal to the Sandiganbayan. In clearing Cruz, the anti-graft court said the prosecution failed to prove that she acted with manifest partiality and/or evident bad faith in her failure to deposit the amount. “Undeniably, while it is established that Cruz admitted her failure to deposit the subject amount despite her possession thereof, the facts proven by such admissions still fall short of reaching the conclusion that Cruz committed violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act beyond reasonable doubt,” the court said in its decision promulgated May 9 that was published Thursday. While the court acquitted Cruz in the graft charges, it ordered her to pay PHP 572,819 representing the remaining amount that she failed to deposit to the bank.
Source: Philippines News Agency