Ex-Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes: No probable cause to sue me for graft
Former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes has appealed the decision of the Sandiganbayan which found probable cause to try him for graft over the alleged fertilizer fund scam.
In his motion for reconsideration filed before the anti-graft court Fifth Division, Reyes said there was no probable cause for the court to proceed with his graft trial.
Reyes was charged with graft for allegedly causing undue injury to government when he failed to review the accreditation of the nongovernment organization Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation (Mamfi) which was not eligible to implement the fertilizer project.
Reyes, an ex-fugitive who was arrested as he faced a murder trial for the killing of broadcaster Gerry Ortega, was charged with one count of graft for giving undue benefit to the bogus foundation Mamfi for the procurement of 3,240 bottles of liquid fertilizers without public bidding in 2004.
In his appeal, Reyes belied the court’s ruling that he was the “endorser” or “proponent” of Mamfi to serve as the conduit for the project because he signed the memorandum of agreement (MOA).
Reyes refuted the counter-affidavit of co-accused Regional Executive Director Dennis Araullo that it was him who endorsed Mamfi.
“No evidence of the alleged participation of Reyes in the alleged conspiracy in this case has been presented except for Araullo’s testimony on the former’s alleged endorsement of Mamfi, which should in the first place be excluded,” Reyes said in his appeal.
Reyes added that the provincial government was merely a beneficiary of the fund, and that it was the Department of Agriculture (DA) which was the procuring entity.
Reyes said as a representative of the beneficiary, he was not expected to endorse an NGO as implementor, and therefore could not have given undue preference to Mamfi.
“Reyes, therefore, could not have engaged Mamfi as a supplier. With more reason that he could not have given any private party… any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference…” the appeal read.
Reyes added that the DA had already procured the fertilizer fund at a fixed price by means of sub allocation where he did not take part of.
“Reyes did not perform any overt act of procurement… He, on behalf of the province, merely received goods already procured,” the appeal said.
He said the MOA he signed was merely pro forma, stating that the P5 million farm inputs had already been earmarked by the DA.
“It was a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. Being a responsible local executive, Reyes was not expected to pass over an opportunity to help his constituents,” the appeal said.
Reyes said the MOA was not a contract that has a nature of a business transaction which should require a Sangguniang Panlalawigan authorization.
He also said the MOA was merely a receipt or acceptance of grant from the national government.
“The funds from the project, distributed to Palawan, among other local government units, have apparently been earmarked and its purpose determined… such that, no discretion was left to the local executives but to either accept or reject the same,” Reyes said.
Reyes maintained that he committed no bad faith, partiality and gross negligence, and that there was no injury committed against the government.
“Reyes most humbly submits that he is not guilty of bad faith, partiality or gross negligence,” his appeal read.
According to the graft information, Reyes released P3.25 million for the procurement to Mamfi even though the latter was not a qualified nongovernment organization (NGO) to implement the Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program because it did not submit the complete documents of accreditation.
The prosecutors said Reyes caused undue injury to government by acting with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence when it gave unwarranted benefits to Mamfi in the transaction.
Charged with Reyes was Mamfi president Marina Sula, who testified as a witness in the plunder and graft trial of former senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and former representatives implicated in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
Sula is a property custodian of Napoles, who was accused of creating bogus foundations under the names of her employees.
The other coaccused in Reyes’ case are Araullo and Regional Technical Director Rodolfo Guieb, both from the Department of Agriculture-Regional Unit IV; and Nathaniel Tan, an authorized representative of Mamfi.
Reyes’ charges stemmed from the anomalous implementation of the 2004 Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Reyes and his brother former Coron Mayor Mario Reyes turned fugitive when they fled the country in March 2012 after they were indicted by the Department of Justice for allegedly masterminding the murder of Ortega in 2011. The hitman named the Reyes brothers as the masterminds of the killing.
The brothers led a lavish lifestyle in Phuket, Thailand, before they were arrested by authorities there in September 2015 for violation of immigration laws. They were eventually deported to Manila, where they were detained at Puerto Princesa City Jail for the Ortega murder.
The younger Reyes had been granted bail by the court. The elder Reyes meanwhile was denied temporary freedom as he faced the murder trial.