Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II commended the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor of Pangasinan (OPP-Pangasinan) for the conviction of the then municipal treasurer of Manaoag, Pangasinan for the embezzlement of funds intended for the construction of the Manaoag Pilgrimage Plaza in 1998.
In a 12-page Judgment, the Regional Trial Court of Urdaneta City, Pangasinan - Branch 45 found Ricardo Nunez guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of Malversation of Public Funds (Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code).
Nunez was sentenced by the court to suffer the penalty of imprisonment of from 10 years and one day to 17 years, four months and one day and perpetual special disqualification. He was also ordered to pay a fine of P2,334,120.83 equivalent to the unaccounted funds.
The OPP-Pangasinan had earlier charged Nunez with the offense, for "misappropriat[ing] to his own personal benefit the said public funds in the amount of P5,334,120.03, and despite repeated demands made upon him to immediately produce the said amount, accused returned and restituted the amount of P506,000".
During trial, Commission on Audit (COA) auditors testified that they examined the cash books of the accused. They said "the first examination on Aug. 31, 1998 showed that he incurred a shortage in the amount of P932,007.29."
Subsequent audit conducted on Oct 5, 1998, revealed that the Departments of Tourism and Agriculture "released funds to the accused in the amounts of P3,969,000 and P940,819.68, respectively, for the construction of the Manaoag Park and water impounding system of the municipality." The COA Auditors testified that the amounts were not entered by the accused in any of his cash books. Thus, the total shortage incurred by the accused amounted to P5,841,826.97.
The witnesses said they sent Nunez demand letters but in his reply, "the accused did not explain the shortage but asked for a grace period of 45 days within which to restitute the amount." They said out of the total amount of shortage, Nunez was able to make a restitution in the amount of P506,000, which left a balance of P5,334,120.83.
The court noted that the amount of P3M spent for the construction of the plaza was liquidated by Nunez' successor, but "that still leaves the accused with an unaccounted funds of P2,334,120.83."
Aguirre reiterated that the Dept. of Justice will relentlessly pursue these kind of cases as directed by the President.