Sandiganbayan junks graft raps vs Ongpin, ex-DBP officers
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Voting 3-2, the Sandiganbayan dismissed on Wednesday, May 28, graft charges against controversial businessman Roberto Ongpin and former officers and executives of state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in connection with P660-million loan deals in 2009.
In a 77-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan Special Third Division dismissed the cases filed by government against the respondents for lack of basis.
The majority resolution held that the cases should not have reached the court because the evidence offered by the respondents during preliminary investigation clearly refuted all allegations of irregularities in the grant of the loans.
The court said the Office of the Ombudsman ignored the evidence and allowed itself to be pressured into issuing criminal indictments.
"This case should have been dismissed at the preliminary investigation stage. Pressures of public opinion however 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 said.
Associate Justice Samuel Martires penned the decision, while Associate Justices Jose Hernandez and Efren de la Cruz concurred.
On the other hand, Associate Justices Oscar Herrera and Maria Cristina Cornejo submitted dissenting opinions.
In a statement following the decision, Ongpin said, "Obviously, I am happy with this development. This strengthens my belief in the integrity of the judicial process in this country."
The charges stemmed from P660-million in alleged "behest" loan deals between DBP and Ongpin's company, Deltaventures Resources Inc. (DVRI), in 2009. The government claimed the loans were behest, citing the following reasons:
- The loans were under-collateralized
- DVRI was undercapitalized
- There was corporate layering
- The loans were approved and released with extraordinary speed
DVRI used proceeds of the loans to acquire shares owned by DBP in the country's largest copper-gold producer, Philex Mining Corporation, the same year. The firm later on sold these shares for a profit to businessman Manuel Pangilinan.
From DBP, named defendants were former bank president Reynaldo David; board chairperson Patricia Sto. Tomas; board directors Alexander Magno, Ramon Durano IV, Floro Oliveros and Renato Velasco; executive vice president Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio Jr.; vice president and Metro Manila Marketing Center head Arturo Baliton; senior VP Perla Soleta, assistant managers Rodolfo Cerezo and Warren de Guzman; senior assistant VP Teresita Tolentino; chief accounts management specialist Marissa Cayetano; and branch banking sector manager Nelson Macatlang.
Aside from Ongpin, also named private defendants were DVRI president Josephine Manalo and DVRI treasurer Ma. Lourdes Torres. – Rappler.com