Sandiganbayan OKs pork case trial of ex-Cotabato solon
The Sandiganbayan has found probable cause to proceed with the first of the two pork barrel scam cases filed against former Cotabato 2nd Dist. Rep. Gregorio Ipong this year.
In a six-page resolution dated Aug. 24, the court’s Third Division denied Ipong’s motion for judicial determination of probable cause challenging his indictment for one count each of graft and malversation in the P9.6-million case.
Affirming the sufficiency of the charges brought by the Ombudsman in May, the antigraft court said Ipong’s defense is best threshed out in a full-blown trial on the merits of the case.
“After a cursory reading of the Informations, this Court finds sufficiency and that the ultimate facts [for the charges] indeed exist therein,” read the resolution penned by Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.
The court noted that probable cause only required “belief, in a reasonable mind… that the person charged was guilty of the crime for which he was prosecuted.”
Whether evidence is strong enough to support a conviction is a matter to be discussed in the trial, it explained.
State prosecutors accused Ipong of disregarding appropriation and procurement laws when he tapped the unqualified Aaron Foundation Philippines, Inc. (AFPI) to implement his livelihood projects without public bidding
Ipong allegedly conspired with state-run Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) to process the release of his Priority Development Assistance Fund proceeds. The projects turned out to be nonexistent.
In his June 13 motion, Ipong argued the regulations requiring public bidding were not yet in effect when he endorsed AFPI as partner nongovernment organization for the livelihood projects in 2007.
He also argued he was not the accountable officer for his misused Priority Development Assistance Fund allocations, because he was not involved in the implementation stage for the ghost projects.
Besides this set of charges, Ipong also faces one count each of graft and malversation before the Sixth Division over the misuse of his P4.9-million PDAF proceeds involving AFPI and TLRC. Ipong raised similar arguments in questioning the said indictment this month.
Ipong served as a three-term congressman from 1998 to 2007. He was also elected to three consecutive terms as vice-governor beginning 2010 and his current and last term was supposed to end in 2019.
However, the Ombudsman ordered his dismissal in October 2016 after finding him guilty for the administrative aspect of this case. Ipong stepped down in November 2016.
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