MANILA, Philippines—Former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to order the dismissal of the graft cases the Ombudsman had filed against her before the Sandiganbayan.
In a 45-page petition, Padaca urged the high court to reverse the resolution of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales that found her liable for graft and malversation of public funds and to order her to withdraw the information filed before the anti-graft court.
“The (Ombudsman) acted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing the assailed resolutions finding probable cause against (Padaca),” the petition said.
“The elements of undue injury to the government or unwarranted benefits to any party and manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence are clearly absent,” it added.
Padaca and several officers of a non-government organization were accused of mishandling government funds before the Sandiganbayan.
The former governor allegedly allowed the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation (Edwinlfi), a non-government organization (NGO), to take loans for hybrid rice from a P25-million fund in 2006 without public bidding.
But Padaca said public bidding was not required and the government was not adversely affected when Edwinlfi secured the loans.
“Public bidding was not required under the circumstances, (and its) absence … did not result in undue injury to the provincial government. Neither did it create unwarranted benefits in favor of Edwinlfi,” the petition said.
It said the NGO “did not receive any amount from the provincial government” and was only supposed to maintain the funds for the rice program and then facilitate their transfer to qualified farmer beneficiaries in Isabela.
“In performing such an undertaking, the NGO does not expect to get paid because such undertaking is on a voluntary basis,” the petition said.
It said the memorandum of agreement (MOA) between the provincial government and the NGO had “sufficient safeguards” to prevent Edwinlfi from getting any unwarranted benefits from the project.
“At all times, (Padaca) acted within the bounds of her authority and in good faith … the execution of the MOA is born out of (her) honest belief that she had the authorization and support of the (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) and that she was pursuing a program that will uplift the quality of life of Isabela’s farmers,” the petition said.
“That the (Sangguniang Panlalawigan) saw it fit to authorize (Padaca) to enter into the MOA after its execution signifies that the terms of the contract were amenable to the body, and the legislative council members had no objections to (Padaca’s) exercise of her power as governor to represent the province in all its business transactions,” it added.
The petition also said that “not all the elements” of the crime of malversation of public funds could be found in the case.
“Padaca had no custody of the subject public funds and she is not the accountable officer for it. There is no showing that (Padaca) derived any benefit from the loan proceeds for the provincial rice program,” the petition said.
“There is no showing that (Padaca) negligently caused or consented to any appropriation, taking or misappropriation of public funds,” it added.
Padaca earlier accused the Dy clan, her political adversaries in Isabela, of being behind the filing of the graft charges against her. The Dys have denied Padaca’s claim.
Originally posted: 3:27 pm | Tuesday, May 29th, 2012