THE Sandiganbayan issued a non-bailable warrant of arrest against Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo of Lanao del Norte and five others in line with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.
Justices of the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division junked the motion for judicial determination of probable cause in a 14-page resolution after they saw no reasons to reverse the ruling of the Office of the Ombudsman in the high-level corruption scandal.
“Verily, there is no reason for this court to overturn the Ombudsman’s findings of probable cause to indict the accused,” read the 14-page resolution which was released on Wednesday.
Following the resolution, the anti-graft court also ordered the arrest of Dimaporo and the other accused in the non-bailable charge when it issued on the same day a warrant of arrest.
The court issued the bench order, commanding the Philippine National Police and the National Bureau of Investigation to apprehend Dimaporo alongside state agriculturist Isabelo Luna 6th and private individuals Felizardo Dragon, Evangeline Ontiveros, Rosalinda Bisenio and Elmer Sayre of LFI.
The accused are all facing graft and malversation. Bail for graft is set at P30,000, however, malversation is non-bailable.
During the hearing of the motion, the incumbent representative of the second district of Lanao del Norte said that he was never in custody of the public funds allocated for the purchase fertilizers because the Department of Agriculture Regional Office directly transferred the cash to the Lanao Foundation, Inc. (LFI)
He added that the 10,000 bags of Saka Organic fertilizer reached the beneficiaries down to the barangay (village) level, which makes should make him exculpated of falsifying any documents.
Dimaporo and others are facing graft and malversation charges for allegedly releasing P5 million to LFI under the Farm Input and Farm Implement Program (FIFIP) of the Department of Agriculture, infamously known as the fertilizer fund scam.
However, the Sandiganbayan held otherwise and banked on the validity of the graft and malversation charges against Dimporo and his co-accused.
“In these cases, this court finds that probable cause exists that the crimes charged in the Informations have been committed by the accused,” the resolution read, quoting the memorandum of the Office of the Special Prosecutor that detailed the alleged acts of the defendants.
The court added that the Dimaporo was already raising arguments which are evidentiary in nature and are best exhausted in a full-blown trial.
“What is presented [in a preliminary investigation]is evidence only as may engender a well-founded belief that an offense has been committed and that the accused is probably guilty thereof,” the resolution read.
The magistrates added that the special audit report of the Commission on Audit which did not allegedly question the P728-million fertilizer fund transfer—an argument that Dimporo raised—is “irrelevant to the investigation” of graft investigators.
Associate Justices Roland Jurado, Alexander Gesmundo and Amparo Cabotaje-Tang signed the resolution. JOHN CONSTANTINE G. CORDON