The lawyer of business tycoon Roberto Ongpin on Saturday said the Court of Appeals’ order freezing Ongpin’s bank accounts is “totally without basis and completely unjustified.”
Lawyer Rodolfo Ma. Ponferrada said the appellate court was misled by the Anti-Money Laundering Council’s (AMLC) application for a freeze order which he said was full of “inaccuracies and wrong information.”
In a Dec. 6 order, the Court of Appeals, acting on an AMLC request, ordered a temporary 20-day freeze on 100 bank accounts of Ongpin, who is being investigated on charges that he obtained preferential loans from the state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).
The government contends that the loans to Ongpin were fast-tracked without sufficient protection for the state bank. It also said the DBP was deprived of the chance to make hefty profits because Ongpin had used the loan proceeds to buy the DBP’s Philex Mining Corp. shares, which he turned around and sold at a premium to another business tycoon, Manuel V. Pangilinan.
“To begin with, there clearly was no undue injury to the government,” Ponferrada said.
“The P412.5 million in trading gains that DBP was alleged to have been deprived had it sold directly to Manny Pangilinan is purely speculative. And at that time there were no assurances that a sale at the P21 price would be concluded,” he said.
“Then and now, the DBP had no deal with Mr. Pangilinan. The negotiations were purely between Mr. Ongpin and Mr. Pangilinan,” Ponferrada said.
Ponferrada also pointed out that the Office of the Ombudsman, which investigated the Ongpin loan case, had in a Sept. 24, 2012 resolution, dropped all other graft charges including the claim for undue injury against his client.
“And to date, no criminal case has been filed against Mr. Ongpin in any court,” he said.
“There being no financial injury to DBP and to the government, there is therefore no reason to freeze the bank accounts of Mr. Ongpin as there is nothing which government seeks to recover,” Ponferrada said.
Even the Senate investigations last year into Ongpin’s alleged behest loans found no evidence to recommend the criminal prosecution of Ongpin, his lawyer said.
“The so-called behest loan charges against Mr. Ongpin is incorrect as both these loans have been fully paid with interest well before their maturity,” Ponferrada said.
“It is settled in jurisprudence that for a loan to be behest, it must be nonperforming, delinquent or in default,” he said.
Finally, Ponferrada said the freeze order was improper as it was made ex parte, that is, without notice being given to Ongpin or his lawyer.
He also said that the freeze order covered not only Ongpin but some 30 other persons.
“Under the applicable rules of procedure, we have 20 days within which to have the temporary order lifted. We will file the appropriate motion on Monday,” Ponferrada said.
Meanwhile, Ongpin on Saturday said he would pay for the legal expenses of all the dismissed DBP officials and employees whom he described as “innocent bystanders” caught up in a “vendetta” against him.
“I found out that the 13 DBP employees had been fired because of this supposed crime, which is totally nonexistent,” he said in a telephone interview.
Earlier this week, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales dismissed 13 officials and employees of the DPB for their alleged participation in granting the loans to Ongpin in 2009.
“They’re innocent bystanders in this case against me. I’m prepared to help, definitely. They’re getting into trouble because of the vendetta against me,” Ongpin said.
He stressed that he was being persecuted for a “nonexistent” crime, pointing out that the DBP was never at risk with the loans he took out because of the collateral he had put up.
The loan was repaid ahead of schedule, earning for the bank P1.4 billion in profits, he said.
Ponferrada said the appellate court freeze order was just the latest in a continuing persecution of the former Marcos trade minister, the country’s ninth richest man according to Forbes Magazine, because of his close association with Jose Miguel Arroyo, the husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
“My client is prepared to vigorously oppose this pattern of persecution in all fora,” he said.
At a Senate hearing last year, Ongpin defended his relationship with Arroyo’s husband. He said Jose Miguel was his friend before his wife became president in 2001. “But friendship does not mean I was his crony,” he said.