The Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) is asking the Sandiganbayan to reverse its dismissal of the two graft charges against former officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) over alleged behest loans.
In May this year, the court cleared former DBP president Roberto Ongpin, vice chairman Reynaldo David and several other high-ranking officials of the DBP for lack of sufficient evidence.
“Prosecution was deprived of its opportunity to prosecute its case and to prove the accused’s culpability,” prosecutors said.
To challenge the court resolution, the prosecution filed a motion for reconsideration saying the court “gravely erred” in dismissing the cases and pointing out that the court previously found probable cause.
Penned by Associate Justice Samuel Martires and concurred in by Associate Justices Jose Hernandez and Efren Dela Cruz, the 77-page resolution said the cases should have been dismissed at the preliminary investigation stage.
Associate Justices Maria Cristina Cornejo and Oscar Herrera, Jr. dissented. Herrera said the cases’ dismissal was an “unwanted turnaround” while Cornejo said it would be inconsistent with the court’s finding of probable cause.
Maintaining their position, prosecutors urged the anti-graft court to heed these dissents and take a second look at its resolution.
The dismissal of the cases was “premature,” they said, arguing that dismissal based on insufficiency of evidence may only be made after the prosecution rests its case.
“The Honorable Court denied the People of the Philippines their due process rights when it ruled on the merits of the evidence even before trial proper,” the 88-page motion read.
It also said the Ombudsman’s findings were supported by evidence, and presented detailed findings and conclusions to support the indictment for graft.
Prosecutors maintained that there was “extraordinary speed” or “undue haste” in the approval of the first loan, which took only five working days. This, they said, led to failure to conduct due diligence in lending P150 million to a company “which had no juridical personality,” because its registration was allegedly revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2003.
They cited David’s admission in a 2011 Senate hearing that the approval of the second loan in one day was “unprecedented.”
Also, they illustrated Ongpin’s alleged use of corporate layering as an attempt to evade liability. Ongpin was “in truth, the beneficial owner of DVRI that would shield him from recourse in case of default,” the OMB said.
They added that another proof of “unwarranted benefit” was that the second loan’s proceeds were allegedly used to help Ongpin purchase DBP shares in Philex Mining Corporation. The stocks were allegedly also used as collateral for the loans.
“The 50 million Philex shares pledged as sole collateral for the P510 Million loan to DVRI were released even before full payment of the loan, all because DVRI requested it so that these shares can be sold on 07 December 2009 without restriction,” the OMB said.
“Whether the loans were fully paid or not, the fact remains that the accused public officers gave unwarranted benefits to accused Ongpin, et al.,” prosecutors maintained.
Further, enumerated in the motion were the DBP officers’ grant of at least 10 waivers of major and basic requirements supposedly to make DVRI a qualified borrower for the second loan, “contrary to banking laws and DBP’s own rules and regulations.”
“The numerous waivers point to only one conclusion: that the ‘DBP officials intentionally favored respondent Ongpin, albeith through DVRI,’” the motion read.
It further read, “the Accused-officers sold DBP’s own shares to Accused Ongpin’s corporation on credit, by extending loans to the latter, resulted in an uncanny situation where DBP funded DVRI’s purchase of DBP’s own Philex shares.”
Filed in January 2013, the case stemmed from two loans amounting to P660 million in given by the DBP to Deltaventure Resources, Inc. (DVRI) in 2009, broken down to P150 million and P510 million.
Ongpin was a trade secretary during the Marcos presidency.