Sandiganbayan clears water bill collector in malversation case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 19) — The Sandiganbayan has cleared a former water concessionaire bill collector in a malversation case she is facing for supposedly misappropriating over ₱480,000 of collections for her personal use from 2010 to 2011.

In a decision dated Sept. 15, the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division reversed an earlier ruling by a local court in Pangasinan and set aside the conviction of Reinaflor Sales due to lack of proof of her guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

The case against Sales, an appointed office bill collector for Villasis Water District (VWD), stemmed from a Commission on Audit report that showed she failed to remit ₱909,455 in collections to the cashier in 2010. It was later found that over ₱428,000 was remitted but she was reported to still have an unremitted balance of over ₱480,000.

Sales was found guilty by Villasis, Pangasinan Regional Trial Court Branch 50 last September 2022. Sales then appealed her conviction before the Sandiganbayan last May.

She argued that the prosecution failed to prove she actually took and misappropriated the unremitted funds as the amount consisted partly of cash advances of the VWD’s officers, employees and members of the Board of Directors.

The Sandiganbayan agreed with Sales. It noted that the audit team leader, a prosecution witness, admitted on direct examination that the cash shortage was due to cash advances made by the general manager and Board of Directors.

The court added that the cashier who disbursed the cash advances, employees, general manager and board members who failed to liquidate their cash advances are all accountable for the missing funds.

“She acted in good faith in the honest belief that ‘cash advances’ were all for valid purposes, and not to enrich herself or another by criminal misappropriation. It was a mistake or error in judgment, not a crime,” the court said.