Ex-Napocor execs charged for paying P124M to unauthorized reps of shuttered firm
MANILA, Philippines — Former top officials of the National Power Corporation are facing graft and malversation charges before the Sandiganbayan for allegedly paying P124 million to the supposedly unauthorized foreign representatives of a Philippine company in 2003.
Charged were Rogelio Murga, the former president and chief executive officer of Napocor, and Alberto Guanzon, the former chair of the Committee on Contract Expiration on Insurance Capacities.
The Office of the Ombudsman, which ordered the filing of charges, set their bail at P30,000 each for the graft charges, but said that their malversation charges were non-bailable.
No charges were filed against the foreign representatives–Kay Swee Tuan and Terence Selverajah–because the Philippine courts had no jurisdiction over them.
In a resolution, approved by Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro on June 9, the Office of the Ombudsman said Murga and Guanzon were liable for violation of the anti-graft law and malversation.
“After a judicious and thorough evaluation of the records obtaining, this Office observed several glaring irregularities attending the release of the subject funds,” it said.
The Ombudsman’s resolution affirmed part of the findings of the National Bureau of Investigation, which first handled the case. It also noted that Murga and Guanzon did not submit counter-affidavits to the Office of the Ombudsman.
The complaint against the Napocor executives was filed by the Navotas Industrial Corporation (NIC), which had a pending claim against Ganda Energy and Holdings, Inc. (GEHI). In connection with the claim, the Malabon regional trial court issued a writ of attachment on the payments that Napocor would make to GEHI.
But Napocor said that it no longer had any more payments to make to GEHI because all of its obligations with the latter had been settled.
Napocor’s payments for GEHI were made to Tuan of S.T. Kay and Company, and were received by Nora Go based on a letter of authority from Tuan. The payments, which amounted to P124 million, were made through checks and bank transfers in 2003.
But NIC contended that the Napocor had no authority to release GEHI’s payments to Tuan, who had no board authority from GEHI.
The NIC also said that as early as October 2000, it already sought Napocor’s assistance to recover GEHI’s obligations to it amounting to P52.494 million. Napocor, however, said that GEHI’s contract with Napocor had been completed, and the latter could no longer act on the request.
In its findings, the Office of the Ombudsman noted that Murga and Guanzon earlier told the NBI that Napocor dealt with Tuan in good faith, and in the absence of any objection from GEHI, which shuttered its Manila office in 2000.
But the Office of the Ombudsman said that it found no evidence to support the claim of good faith. It said that the requests of S.T. Kay and Co. were based on spurious documents since Selvarajah and Tuan derived their supposed authority from someone who had no power to appoint anyone as representative of GEHI. Tuan allegedly derived her authorization from Selverajah.
It said that the Napocor officials knew they were dealing with foreign nationals, which was why they should have verified the foreigners’ identities before dealing with them and before releasing the money. “Stringent verification” was also needed especially since the officials knew that GEHI’s Manila office had closed down, it added.
“This simple verification process was obviously neglected by respondents Murga and Guanzon, which thus caused undue injury to the complainant and the government,” it said.
The Office of the Ombudsman also noted that prior to releasing the funds, the Napocor officials knew that GEHI had financial obligations with NIC. This should have prompted Murga and Guanzon not to release the entire amount of GEHI’s collectibles to the representatives who “possessed doubtful authority,” it added.
It also cited the statements of other Napocor officials that they no longer verified the authenticity of the letter of authorization of the supposed GEHI representatives since the recommendation to pay them came from Guanzon and was approved by Murga.
The Office of the Ombudsman also said it agreed with the NBI that there was a conspiracy between Murga, Guanzon, Tuan and Selverajah.
It noted that Selverajah’s allegation that his authorization to receive the GEHI funds was derived from Technoasia was untenable, since Technoasia said that it was in no position to settle GEHI claims.
But it said it had no jurisdiction to file charges against Tuan and Seleverajah. Based on the records, Napocor’s payments to them were made outside the Philippines.
In the same case, the Office of the Ombudsman also found no probable cause against Napocor officials Joseph Dechavez and Urbano Mendiola, and other private respondents Lim Tian Huat, Chew Cheng Leong and Foo Lee Khean.
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.