Mon. Nov 29th, 2021

The Sandiganbayan has sentenced a former lawmaker and two others for two counts of graft in the funding of a vocational education program run by the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) using Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in 2005.

(Photo Courtesy: PNA)

In a 33-page decision written by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. dated November 12, the anti-graft court’s Special Second Division sentenced former Iloilo 2nd District Representative Judy Syjuco, former TESDA deputy director general for field operations Santiago Yabut Jr., and Tagipusuon Cooperative president Maria Nela Yniesta from six to eight years in prison for each count.

The three were also ordered to pay the government a total of P6.984 million in civil liabilities.

The pieces of evidence presented by the prosecution “more than sufficiently established the required quantum proof for the conviction of the accused of the offenses charged”, the Sandigan ruled.

The case against Syjuco’s husband, then TESDA Director General Augusto Syjuco Jr., was dismissed following his death in January 2020.

On July 23, 2014, they were accused of entering into transactions with the cooperative, founded by the Syjucos in 1998, for the implementation of TESDA’s “Education for All” program.

The transaction involved a Memorandum of Agreement with the Tagipusuon Cooperative, covering its Invigorating Constituent Assistance in Reinforcing Employment (I-CARE) Program, to be funded by Judy Syjuco’s PDAF for PHP20 million.

Records showed the Department of Budget and Management issued two Special Allotment Release Orders at P10 million each from the PDAF of Judy Syjuco in 2005.

The cooperative, according to the investigation, was unqualified at the time.

Investigators also found that the late Syjuco issued TESDA Order No. 1C Series of 2006 supposedly providing school bags, supplies, and uniforms for elementary and high school students from the second congressional district of Iloilo under the I-CARE program, in violation of the agency’s mandate to provide technical education and skills development to Filipino “middle-level manpower”.

Middle-level manpower is generally defined as the working force between an unskilled worker and a professional.

Aside from handing the money to an unqualified cooperative for an unauthorized purpose, the court also said “there was no proper liquidation of the funds received by Tagipusuon Cooperative”, noting that the liquidation of P14.7 million from the PDAF of P20 million, as reported by Tagipusuon, was unacceptable.

The court noted that P5.297 million is still missing from the equation and unliquidated, and the P1.687 million used by the cooperative to pay its overhead and other expenses are not allowed under government guidelines.

Tagipusuon also spent the PDAF funds on administrative costs, including hotel expenses.

“There was blatant conflict of interest. Accused J. Syjuco assigned TESDA, where her husband was the Director General, as the implementing agency, and TESDA designated Tagipusuon as the NGO (non-governmental organization) to receive accused J. Syjuco’s PDAF, and implement the fatally defective and highly irregular project,” the Sandigan said. 

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