Padaca arraignment reset Nov. 29By Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines — New election commissioner Grace Padaca’s arraignment on graft and malversation charges has been reset to November 29 by the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division.
The decision was handed down by Justice Rolando Jurado, chairman of the fifth division of the anti-graft court, along with Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
Padaca’s lawyer George Aquino urged the anti-graft court to defer the arraignment due to his client’s pending petition for a temporary restraining order before the Supreme Court.
He said that they filed the petition back in May but the prosecution only submitted their comment October 10.
Jurado said that they would allow Padaca’s request but warned that her lawyers had to bring with them a TRO from the high tribunal when they come back on November 29 or the court would have to proceed with the arraignment.
Padaca said that she was very grateful that the justices gave her a chance to secure the TRO first.
Aquino said that they were confident that the high court wouldissue the TRO they needed.
The two cases filed against Padaca back when she was still Isabela governor stemmed from a contract she awarded to non-government organization Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. (EDWINLFI) without public bidding for the operation of a credit facility for rice farmers back in 2006.
Padaca suspected that the charges brought against her were done to discredit her during the 2007 elections. She maintained bidding was not necessary for the project because they were not procuring goods or services.
“It was obviously done to discredit me for the upcoming elections. But they also made conditions worse for the farmer beneficiaries of the program by coming after me,” she said, pointing out that the project, which sought to grant loans at a low interest rate to farmers, had been suspended.
The anti-graft court recently recalled an arrest warrant for Padaca, a Ramon Magsaysay awardee in 2008, after she posted P70,000 bail.
New Interior Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, who accompanied Padaca to court then, said that the money used to post bail on both the graft and malversation charges came from President Benigno Aquino III’s personal funds.