THE Sandiganbayan Second Division denied for lack of merit the appeal of former Davao del Norte Rep. Arrel Olaño to dismiss the graft, malversation and direct bribery charges filed against him in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
In the motions to quash filed last year, the defense argued that the facts in the charges do not constitute an offense as no law prohibits the endorsement of a non-government organization (NGO) or prohibits Olaño from entering into a Memorandum of Agreement with an NGO.
The defense added that Olaño was not obliged to conduct a public bidding or to accredit or qualify NGOs.
But the court, in a 14-page resolution, said that the grounds Olaño raised “shall be considered as matters of defense which may be raised only during the presentation of evidence.”
The court found “that all the Informations in Criminal Case Nos. SB-16-CRM-0242 to 0244 state the essential elements of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019,” referring to the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019).
In the malversation cases, the court likewise said that the facts charged constitute an offense.
The defense also argued that the charges should be quashed because the alleged criminal acts in the graft cases are already covered in the malversation cases.
But the court found the contention of no merit.
“Each of the seven informations filed against Olaño only charge one offense. Naturally, two or more different informations charge more than one offense. The latter, however, is not a ground for a motion to quash. Whether or not the Information charges more than one offense shall be determined on a per Information basis” it said.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed three counts of graft and three counts of malversation against Olaño and several others last year. He was named sole respondent in the direct bribery case.
In filing the cases last year, the Ombudsman alleged that Olaño chose Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation (Cared), and the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) – an NGO supposedly ran by Janet Lim-Napoles – as project partners in the implementation of his PDAF-funded livelihood projects for the first district of Davao del Norte in 2007.
But the projects turned out to be non-existent.
In addition, Olaño was charged with direct bribery for receiving P3.175 million from Napoles in consideration of choosing the said NGOs to implement PDAF-funded livelihood projects.