THE Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division convicted a former Philippine Permanent Representative of the New York Philippine Mission (NYPM) to the United Nations of graft and malversation in connection with the alleged misuse of $17, 000 in insurance proceeds.
In a 25-page decision promulgated on April 13, the court found Lauro Baja Jr. guilty beyond reasonable doubt of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and sentenced him to six years and a month up to 10 years in prison with perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
“In this case, it was duly proven that accused Baja received on behalf of NYPM the checks of insurance proceeds amounting to $17,524.27. After isolating the funds by depositing the said amount in a separate PNB account, accused Baja gained easier access thereto and authorized the withdrawal of the amount, without properly accounting for and explaining how the same was disposed of. As a result, the government suffered undue injury equivalent to $17,524.27 for the unexplained use of the amount of the insurance proceeds received by accused Baja on behalf of NYPM,” the court said in part.
The court also found him guilty beyond reasonable doubt of malversation and sentenced him to 10 years and a day up to 17 years and four months in prison with perpetual special disqualification from holding public office. It fined him $17,547.27 “or its peso equivalent.”
Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz penned the decision which was concurred by Associate Justice Alex Quiroz, who leads the Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division, and by Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto. REINA TOLENTINO