Ex-trade minister, others cleared in graft case-A A +A
Wednesday, May 28, 2014
THE Sandiganbayan junked on Tuesday the graft charges filed against businessman and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin and ex-officials of the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) in connection with his controversial P660-million loan in 2009.
In a resolution signed by Sandiganbayan Special Third Division Presiding Justice Jose Hernandez and Justices Efren dela Cruz and Samuel Martirez, the court granted the petitioners’ motion to quash the charges in connection with the behest loan granted to Deltaventures Resources Inc. (DVRI), a company of Ongpin.
The former trade minister during the Marcos administration and other ex-DBP officials were accused of conspiracy for forging the behest loan.
DVRI allegedly used the loan proceeds to acquire shares owned by DBP in the country's largest copper-gold producer, Philex Mining Corporation, in 2009.
The shares were later sold to the Metro Pacific Investments Group of businessman Manuel Pangilinan.
Aside from Ongpin, also cleared in the case were former DBP chair Patricia Sto. Tomas and 17 others.
Ongpin and other accused filed the motion to quash in August last year, arguing that "there was lack of probable cause to indict them, as they were just collateral damage in what they described as politically spiced legal intricacies.'
The accused ex-DBP officers and members of credit committees or members of its board of directors denied conspiring with one another to release the loan to DVRI, as they were just performing their ministerial functions when they recommended its approval.
“Outside of conspiracy, or without conspiracy, the accused could in no way be connected to the criminal charges therein,” the accused said.
They also pointed out that the loan did not violate banking laws and rules of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
Ongpin's legal woes though is far from over, as he was ordered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to face the serious illegal detention complaint filed by Eduveges Batalan, his former employee at Philweb Corp. whom he accused of stealing millions from him.
Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera scheduled the preliminary investigation on the complaint on June 9.
Batalan said that he was detained from February 4 to 7 in Balesin Island Resort off Quezon, where he was forced by Ongpin to sign an affidavit stating that he withdrew P3 million from three of the bank accounts he personally created for the businessman’s stock market trading activities.
Forbes magazine estimated Ongpin's wealth at $1.3 billion, making him the the country’s 14th richest person last year. (John Carlo Cahinhinan/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)