After a year in detention, ex-solon in PDAF scam gets out on bail
After over a year in detention, former Apec partylist Representative Edgar Valdez walked to the Sandiganbayan a free man after the court granted his bail petition from plunder over the pork barrel scam.
Dressed in a white polo shirt, the former representative of electric cooperatives in Congress arrived on Thursday at the court for the final processing of his bail application accompanied by his family.
He was all smiles and visibly elated, saying he had a good night sleep in an air-conditioned room after going home past midnight when he was released from the Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig.
He opened his interview with reporters with the words: “Amen, Hallelujah.”
The anti-graft court Fifth Division granted the bail petition of Valdez and allowed him to post P1.5 million bail from plunder and P210,000 from seven counts of graft for a total bail amount of P1.71 million.
The court also granted bail to accused pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, but she will not be released as she serves life sentence at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong after being convicted for the serious illegal detention of Benhur Luy.
The division granted Valdez’s petition not long after the Fourth Division also granted the bail of dismissed Masbate governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete from plunder over the scam.
Valdez was granted bail since he surrendered and was detained at Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig on March 2015.
Valdez said he considered his year-long incarceration for plunder a trial sent to him by God who offered a solution in the end.
“When I was incarcerated there, I took it as a test of faith, trials for me and my family. Dapat maging masaya ka na binigyan ka ng trials. The Lord will not give you trials without giving a solution. He gave me the trials and gave me now the solution,” the elderly lawmaker said.
Valdez said the grant of his bail is an indication that the evidence against him is weak.
“The bail petition will determine whether the evidence of guilt is strong or not. So that in itself the grant of bail is already an indication they have not presented strong evidence,” Valdez said.
In the court resolution promulgated Wednesday, the court said the prosecution was only able to prove that Valdez received P2.6 million kickbacks from the Napoles’ foundation Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation (SDPFFI).
The court said the prosecution failed to prove whether the rest of Valdez’s alleged P57 million kickbacks could be traced to the other foundations of Napoles.
The court also said the charge information against Valdez included the alleged P8.5 million kickbacks in 2010, although the information only charged Valdez for his transactions from 2004 to 2009.
Excluding the P8,500,500 amount from the P57,787,500 kickbacks, Valdez’s alleged kickback from 2004 to 2009 would only amount to P49.287 million, short of the P50 million threshold that constitutes plunder.
Valdez lamented being charged for other transactions not even included in the information filed against him by the prosecution.
“In the criminal case, you are guided by the information. You cannot go outside the allegations in the information. If you prove any evidence that is outside the information, that’s a problem,” Valdez said.
“It’s like basketball. Stay in the basketball court, don’t shoot outside it. In a criminal case, you are bound by the information,” he added.
Valdez said his lawyers would also question his alleged P2.6 million kickbacks traced to Napoles.
Bill of particulars
Valdez said he has already filed his bill of particulars before the Supreme Court, following suit the move of another accused Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile who was granted the bill of particulars and later allowed to post bail by the high court due to humanitarian considerations.
Enrile filed the bill of particulars to obtain specific information on his plunder and graft cases that would allow him to properly defend himself in court.
The bill was made final and executory after the Supreme Court denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman was required by the Supreme Court to answer the following questions:
* A breakdown of the amounts of the “kickbacks or commissions” and how the amount P172 million was arrived at.
* The particular overt acts they committed to constitute the “combination.”
* A brief description of the “identified projects” where the kickbacks or commissions were received.
* Approximate dates or at least the year of receipt of the alleged kickbacks.
* Name of Janet Lim Napoles’ non-government organizations which were the recipient or target implementers of the PDAF projects.
* Government agencies where Enrile allegedly endorsed Napoles’ NGOs.
Valdez said the same decision by the Supreme Court may be favorable in his bid to also secure the same bill of particulars.
“It’s very educational in this plunder case, that every issue in the Enrile case… should also apply to us,” Valdez said.
In the grant of Valdez’s bail, the court clarified that the resolution is not a final judgement on the case.
The Fifth Division granted Valdez’s bail after it earlier denied the same petition by another accused Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is detained for plunder at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center.
In its indictment against the former congressman, the Ombudsman said Valdez endorsed his Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) projects to Napoles-controlled foundations to earn P57.787 million in kickbacks from 2004 to 2009.
Payoffs were allegedly made at Napoles’ office in Ortigas.
Prosecutors said the projects like livelihood programs, distribution of farm inputs and farm implements, agricultural starter kits, technology transfer training via video courses and printed materials, vegetable seeds, gardening packages, knapsack sprayers, concentrated fertilizers, and other tools and equipment never went to their beneficiaries.
“(The) PDAF of Valdez was never used for the intended projects as these were considered ‘ghost’ projects, with fabricated documents submitted for its liquidation,” the Office of the Ombudsman said.
The Ombudsman noted that “the mayors and municipal agriculturists reported that they never received anything from the office of Valdez, or from any of the project partners.”
Besides Valdez, Lanete on Wednesday also paid her P500,000 bail from plunder and P330,000 bail from 11 counts of graft.
Senators Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. remain detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center after their bail petitions were denied by the Sandiganbayan.
Enrile was released from hospital detention after the Supreme Court allowed him to post bail on humanitarian grounds. JE