Ex-aviation exec meted out 6 yrs for unauthorized travel

The Sandiganbayan has sentenced a former Philippine Aerospace Development Corp. (PADC) official to six to 10 years imprisonment over an unauthorized trip to Beijing in 2006.

In a 29-page decision dated Sept. 22, the court’s First Division found former acting vice president and department manager Antonio Suba guilty of one count of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The antigraft court also perpetually disqualified Suba from holding public office.

Prosecutors accused Suba and late president Roberto Navida of graft for receiving P241,478.68 in cash advances for their travel expenses to attend the 4th Biennial International Aircraft Conversion and Maintenance Conference in Beijing from Oct. 10 to 14, 2006.

This was despite the Department of Transportation and Communications’ denial of the request in a Sept. 19, 2006 letter, citing the suspension of foreign travels except for ministerial meetings or trainings not shouldered by the government.

Suba said he relied on Navida’s verbal assurance that they had travel authority and only learned about the denial of the request a day after returning from Beijing.

But, the court said this justification “could not remove the fact” that he traveled with Navida without authority from Transport Secretary Leandro Mendoza.

It said it was not even convinced that Suba was totally unaware, since he had several opportunities to verify if the travel authority was already issued: when he signed the cash advance request, when he received the checks and supporting documents and when they had to present their documents to the immigration officer.

Suba even admitted he wrote the word “businessman” in his travel slip so he could leave the country.

“It is highly improbable, given his stature, position and rank as vice president of PADC, that he would blindly follow accused Navida and misrepresent to be a businessman simply because he was instructed by Navida,” the decision read.

Suba also claimed there was no damage to the government because he reimbursed the full amount to PADC.

Yet, the court said a graft conviction could still be sustained because he was granted the “unwarranted favor or benefit” by traveling to Beijing and “profited in the form of the wealth of knowledge from the conference.”

On the other hand, the court no longer saw the need to impose a civil liability on Suba since he had returned the money.

The decision was penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith A. Econg with the concurrence of Associate Justices Efren N. dela Cruz and Edgardo M. Caldona.

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