Convicted by the Sandiganbayan of the crime of illegal use of public funds, appellant Abdulla is before the Court on petition for review under Rule 45. Appellant’s co-accused, Aguil and Darkis, were both acquitted. Only appellant was found guilty and sentenced by the Sandiganbayan. Upon motion for reconsideration, the Sandiganbayan amended appellant’s sentence by deleting the temporary special disqualification imposed upon her. Still dissatisfied, appellant, now before this Court, persistently pleas innocence of the crime charged.
Is there a presumption of criminal intent in malversation cases?
No. The presumption of criminal intent will not automatically apply to all charges of technical malversation because disbursement of public funds for public use is per se not an unlawful act. Here, appellant cannot be said to have committed an unlawful act when she paid the obligation of the Sulu State College to its employees in the form of terminal leave benefits such employees were entitled to under existing civil service laws. In the absence of any presumption of unlawful intent, the burden of proving by competent evidence that appellant’s act of paying the terminal leave benefits of employees of the Sulu State College was done with criminal intent rests upon the prosecution.
Appellant herein, who used the remainder of the forty thousand pesos (P40,000.00) released by the DBM for salary differentials, for the payment of the terminal leave benefits of other school teachers of the Sulu State College, cannot be held guilty of technical malversation in the absence, as here, of any provision in RA 6688 specifically appropriating said amount for payment of salary differentials only. In fine, the third and fourth elements of the crime defined in Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code are lacking in this case. Acquittal is thus in order.