THE Sandiganbayan on Wednesday cleared billionaire and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin from a P660-million graft suit for lack of evidence.
Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang of the anti-graft court’s Third Division, also absolved former Development Bank of the Philippines president Reynaldo David, ex-DBP chief operating officer Edgardo Garcia, and ex-directors Patricia Sto. Tomas, Ramon Durano IV, Alexander Magno, Floro Oliveros, Joseph Pangilinan, Miguel Romero, Franklin Velarde and Renato Velasco of the complaint.
Associate Justices Jose Hernandez and Efren de la Cruz agreed with Cabotaje-Tang’s decision, while Associate Justices Cristina Cornejo and Oscar Herrera Jr. dissented.
The Sandiganbayan also admonished the investigators assigned by the Ombudsman investigators for their failure to gather enough evidence to justify allegations of “corporate layering’ against the respondents.
The prosecution and defense lawyers were taken aback when the Third Division announced that it had granted motions to quash the criminal charges against Ongpin and his co-respondents.
In its decision, the Sandiganbayan said there was no evidence to substantiate the Office of the Ombudsman’s allegations against Ongpin and company.
The anti-graft body court also said the case should have been dismissed “at the preliminary investigation stage.”
But in its decision, the Sandiganbayan noted that “pressures of public opinion dictate that in order to avoid the brunt and pain of criticism, it would be most convenient to pass unto the court the responsibility to dismiss these cases.”
The Sandiganbayan added that it “revisited and examined in detail submitted by both complainants and the accused” in the conduct of a thorough resolution of the motions to quash the suit.
Members of the anti-graft court said they were convinced the DBP loans extended to Ongpin’s DVRI were not behest, not extended with extra-ordinary speed, and were actually paid in full.
“The Commission on Audit auditors saw a tree but refused to see other trees that covered the forest,” the Sandiganbayan said.
“It is disturbing why the investigating officers of the Ombudsman were more concerned with the ‘considerable risk’ that DBP was allegedly exposed to, which is imaginary, rather than confront the reality that they were asked to gather material and concrete proof that would justify their allegation of corporate layering.”
The court, however, gave both parties time to file their own motions for reconsideration and pleadings.
In 2012, Sto. Tomas and other DBP officials were indicted for their alleged involvement in behest loan anomaly in 2009.
The bank executives were accused of extending two loans of P150 million and P510 million in April 2009 and November 2009, respectively, to Ongpin’s Delta Ventures Resources Inc.
In September 2012, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the filing of graft cases against 22 former DBP, Ongpin and two other officials of DVRI and Goldenmedia Corporation.
The graft charges stemmed from the complaint filed in August 2011 by the DBP represented by its chairman, Jose Nuñez, and its president and chief executive officer Francisco del Rosario Jr.