Manila – The Sandiganbayan has convicted former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca for allegedly granting P25 million to a private entity for the province’s rice program.
In a verdict on Friday, the anti-graft court found Padaca guilty of malversation of public funds and graft. She was sentenced to 12 to 14 years of jail time for her malversation conviction, on top of six to 10 years prison time for graft.
The Sandiganbayan has set Padaca’s bail to P140,000 – double the amount of the P70,000 bail she earlier posted for her temporary liberty.
The anti-graft court also ordered her to pay the Isabela government P18 million in fine for granting the P25-million contract to Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation, Inc. (EDWINLFI) for the implementation of Isabela’s rice program, even if the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the two parties was not approved by the Provincial Board.
Padaca said she was stunned with the Sandiganbayan’s verdict as she maintained that she did not steal from government coffers.
“Lahat ng iyon (P25 million), napunta sa farmers. Alam natin kung gaano sila naghihirap, umuutang sila sa mga traders at financiers. Hindi iyon napunta sa akin,” Padaca said.
“Isang taon na minarkahan ang mga ebidensiya, mga kontrata at resibo ng mga farmers, na sa kanila talaga napunta ang pera. Hindi ako pumasok ng MOA ng walang authority ng Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Binigyan nila ako ng authority na pumasok ng MOA, at notarized ito,” she added, saying she was hoping for a reversal of the conviction and is prepared for a long legal battle ahead.
Padaca, who also served as Commission on Elections commissioner before, was a recipient of the 2008 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Good Governance and is one of the founders of Kaya Natin, a movement for good governance./PN