The Department of Justice – National Prosecution Service has scored another victory with the conviction of an officer of a German firm engaged in a Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) forestry project for pocketing more than P1M in project funds.
Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima hailed the prosecution team for the conviction of Milagrena Baguio, Project Coordinator/Secretary/Finance Manager of DFS Deutsche Forstservice GmbH (DFS) for qualified theft (Art. 10 of the Revised Penal Code).
In a 27-page Decision, Negros Oriental Regional Trial Court Branch 39 Presiding Judge Arlene Catherine Dato sentenced Baguio to reclusion perpetua and to pay the Community Based Forest and Mangrove Management Project (CBFMMP) and DFS P1,083,986.94 representing the cash shortage of the project funds.
DFS is a German consulting company which manages the DENR’s CBFMMP which aims at preventing the further degradation of forest resources.
The Decision stated that during trial, the prosecution was able to establish that Baguio, as secretary, was tasked to perform the affairs of their office as well as coordinate with their partner agencies: the DENR and Local Government Units. At the same time, as Financial Manager, she was in charge with all the company’s financial transactions. She was also the custodian of the project’s funds.
However, due to reports of alleged irregularities committed by Baguio in handling the project’s funds, Dr. Jurgen Schade, DFS Managing Director and CBFMMP Chief Technical Adviser/Consultant, secured the services of an external auditor – A.E. Ochoco and Partners - to audit the financial statements and accounts of the project.
The auditing firm found out that from July 1, 201o to May 6, 2011, there was a cash shortage of P1,083,986.94 in the project funds.
The Decision stated that “the prosecution clearly proved and established the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt in the commission of the crime of qualified theft committed with grave abuse of confidence.”
It said “It was clearly established during the trial of this case that the accused took and appropriated for herself the project funds of CBFMMP amounting to P1,083,986.94 for the period from July 1, 2010 to May 6, 2011. These funds were sourced out from remittances from Germany to be used for the said project.”
De Lima stated that “With the conviction of the accused in this case, it is hoped that the Philippine government will continue to enjoy foreign institutions’ trust which is sometimes eroded because of reports of alleged corruption or mishandling of funds. This administration is committed to ensure transparency in handling funds intended for government projects.”