Sandigan to proceed with pork scam trials of Olaño, Napoles, DBM execs
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan is set to proceed with the trial of former Davao del Norte 1st Dist. Rep. Arrel Olaño, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and five former Department of Budget and Management officials led by erstwhile budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
In two separate resolutions, the court’s Second Division denied the motion to quash filed by Olaño and the motion for judicial determination of probable cause by Napoles.
The case arose from Olaño’s alleged misappropriation of P2 million and P6.5 million to two Napoles-linked foundations, Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic and Development Foundation (CARED) and Philippine Social Development Foundation (PSDFI), in 2007.
The lawmaker allegedly received P3.175 million in exchange for diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund proceeds to what turned out to be “ghost” projects.
In its 14-page resolution on Olaño’s quashal motion, the anti-graft court affirmed the validity of the charges for three counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, three of malversation, and one of direct bribery.
The court said the Office of the Ombudsman was able to state the elements required to put the cases to trial. These include the alleged presence of manifest partiality and bad faith and the supposed undue injury caused to the government, as well as the allegation that he was the accountable officer for the PDAF funds.
Olaño argued that there was no law prohibiting his endorsement of the Napoles-linked non-government organizations, and that he was not obliged to conduct public bidding and accredit the NGOs for his pet projects.
But, the court said these matters of defense should be threshed out in a full-blown trial.
The court said the charges sufficiently alleged that there was a conspiracy to misuse the funds, and the prosecution did not have to elaborate on the specifics at the indictment stage.
It also rejected Olaño’s contention that it should have been the Commission on Audit, not the Office of the Ombudsman, that filed the charges at the Sandiganbayan.
Probable cause against Napoles
Meanwhile, in the 13-page resolution on Napoles’s motion, the Sandiganbayan said there was probable cause to hold the accused for trial and issue warrants of arrest against them.
The court denied Napoles’ claim that her right to be informed of the accusations was violated because the charge sheets clearly alleged that she conspired with the accused public officials in misusing Olaño’s pork barrel funds.
This resolution also denied the joint omnibus motion filed by former budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos, and his staff members Rosario Nuñez, Marilou Bare, Lalaine Paule. This means, Relampagos and his former staff members at the DBM will stand trial too as co-accused in the Olaño- Napoles pork barrel scam case.
The DBM officials earlier argued that whistleblower Benhur Luy mistakenly claimed that Relampagos prepared the Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) and could expedite the process. They said he only signed the release of lump-sum funds when the Secretary was absent. They also claimed that the implementing agencies, not the DBM, had control over the pork barrel funds.
But, like in Olaño’s motion, the court ruled that the whistleblower testimonies were evidentiary matters best ventilated in the trial proper.
The court said that, for now, the facts and circumstances “engender a well-founded belief that the accused conspired to commit the crimes charged, and that the accused is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial.”
Both resolutions were penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera, Jr. and Lorifel L. Pahimna. SFM
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.