By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.
SORSOGON CITY, 19June2013 (BicolToday.com) – For failure by the board of directors of Sorsogon Public School Teachers and Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative Inc. to pay back its investors despite several oral and written demands, and failing to recover the interests on their investments for several months already, “damage was done” was how Prosecutor Maria Carlota Deniega found probable cause to indict for syndicated estafa coop directors Nydia Bercasio, Segundino Guab, Alfredo Camacho, Jorge Fuentes, Alex Rodriguez and Francia Biolena, the coop treasurer with the information that the case be filed in court and no bail is required.
Bercasio is former personnel officer of DepEd Sorsogon; Guab is retired public school district supervisor of Juban District; Camacho is an Elementary School head teacher assigned in Biga Elementary School also of Juban District; Fuentes is school district supervisor at Casiguran; Rodriguez is principal of Gate National High School, Bulan; Gabani is a retired public school principal of Magallanes.
Elizeo Fresnoza and seven others filed the complained after the Coop failed to recognize its monetary obligations during the term of former general manager Mauricio Gabani and former chairman Nydia Bercasio who is now deceased. Their investments are worth 3.047 million.
The complainants, as investors of the Sorsogon Public School Teachers and Employees Multi-Purpose Cooperative, entrusted their retirement money to the cooperative with a monthly interest of 2.5% .
Their investments were guaranteed with post dated checks and certificates of investment, but upon demand with the coop depository bank, the account was already closed. Despite of their plight, the coop board of directors continued to ignore them, blaming the former manager whom it fired for the fund misuse.
The prosecutor found the contentions of the coop board not meritorious. It resolved that estafa was committed by respondents, “misrepresentation that the Coop can accept non-member investors when in fact, it had no power nor authority to do so” was the summation of the prosecutor of the collective acts of respondent board of directors and coop treasurer.
Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code states; “any person who defraud another by means of false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to, or simultaneously, with the commission of the fraud”. Deniega found the elements of fraud present in the collective acts of the coop board of directors and its treasurer.
The coop treasurer, Francia Biolena in her counter-affidavit said “one of the sources of the Coop’s capital is the investment from retired teachers, members and employees of the Department of Education, under the term of former general manager Mauricio Gabani, the Coop begun receiving investors with a 2.5% monthly interest”. Biolena received several investments and signed several check on behalf of the board.
During the clarificatory hearing, it was found out that “upon investing, investors received checks issued by Gabani and Biolena”. When asked if it was with the consent of the Board, Biolena replied in the affirmative.
On whether a probable cause of estafa exist against respondents, Prosecutor Deniega citing the admission of former board chairman Nydia Bercasio that the coop accepted investments, noting that whether the investment is with the consent of the board or not, the same are illegal.
It further stated the present board could not be unaware of the “uncondoned” acts of Biolena and Gabani, noting that Bercasio as chairman signed the certificates of investments of complainants.
Underscoring, Prosecutor Deniega said that “when Bercasio affixed her signature in the certificate of investment, it was because she was already the Coop’s authorized signatory in a financial transaction, not because she was prevailed upon by Gabani as she claims”.
“Signing the certificate of investment without questioning why the coop would have such a transaction shows that she was well aware of the practice and approval of it.”
The resolution further stated, “It shows that she was not only condoning, but approving the illegal acts of Gabani for the coop” “despite learning of the “unauthorized acts” of Gabani, she and the Board did nothing about it.
“ When Bercasio signed the certificate of investment in her capacity as chairman of the Board, such became an official act of the Board and the Coop.
Pinning the respondents, Prosecutor Deniega cited Board Resolution No.3 signed by Bercasio, Guab, Camacho, Rodriguez and Fuentes that on March 6, 2012, the Board already came to know that Gabani and Biolena were accepting investors, contrary to RA 9520, yet despite knowing that taking in investors is against the provision of RA 9520 it still accepted investments.
The prosecutor said that the action shows that it is the Board policy that the acceptance of investments is condoned and approved.
Presidential Decree 1689 defines syndicated estafa as “ estafa committed by a syndicate consisting of five or moré persons formed with the intention of carrying out the unlawful or illegal act, transaction, enterprise or scheme, and the defraudation results in the misappropriation of money contributed by stockholders or members of rural banks, cooperative . . .” was referred to by Prosecutor Deniega to clarify the acts of the defendants.
“The fraud perpetrated is the representation that the Coop can validly take in investment when it could not, that there are several people involved, while Gabani was pointed out in the complaint and in the counter-affidavits as the one directly managing the investment scheme of the coop, Bercasio, Biolena, Guab, Camacho, Rodriguez and Fuentes knew, tolerated and participated in the illegal investment scheme of the coop” was observed in the prosecutor’s resolution.
Gabani is subject to a preliminary investigation, while the complaint on Dennis De Guzman was dismissed. [BicolToday.com]
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