Sandigan junks malversation, graft case vs Pagdanganan
DUE to the Ombudsman’s delay in resolving the complaint, the Sandiganbayan Second Division dismissed the malversation and graft raps filed against former Agrarian Reform Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan in connection with the alleged misuse of P30-million in coconut funds.
In a resolution, the antigraft court said the Ombudsman stalled in its resolution indicting Pagdanganan for the charges of allegedly misusing P30 million in public funds intended for the construction of a coconut processing plant in Quezon to instead set up a private corporation.
The court said the Ombudsman received the complaint against Pagdanganan in July 2004 but the office only issued a resolution finding probable cause in July 2011, or after seven years.
“(T)here appears to be no justifiable basis as to why the Office of the Ombudsman could not have earlier resolved the preliminary investigation proceedings… (T)he proceedings were terminated after about seven years after the filing of the complaint on July 15, 2004. Under the circumstances, the delay largely remains unjustified,” the court said.
“The Ombudsman has the inherent duty not only to go through the particulars of the case but also to resolve the same within the proper length of time. Its dutiful performance should not only be gauged by the quality of the assessment but by the reasonable promptness of its dispensation,” the court said.
The court found “unacceptable” the prosecution’s defense that the delay in resolution of the complaint was due to the “political environ” resulting from the impeachment and eventual resignation of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
The government lawyers said the resolution on the complaint was approved as early as 2006 and that the only signature left missing then was Gutierrez’. Gutierrez assumed office in December 2005.
“It is obvious that at the time the Resolution of the Ombudsman was made, Gutierrez was relatively new in her job and nothing appears to have prevented her from performing her job as Ombudsman with dispatch,” the court said.
According to the complaint filed by Ugnayan Kapatiran ng Nagsasariling Organisasyon sa Kanayunan (UNORKA), Pagdanganan as DAR secretary entered into a memorandum of understanding with National Council on Food Security and Job Creation (NCFSJC) executive director Charles Avila for the latter to set up and register a private stock corporation.
The corporation, named Calauag, Quezon Province Integrated Coconut Processing Plant Inc., was registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
The complainants said the P30 million earmarked for a coconut processing plant in Quezon was instead used as equity investment fund of DAR to the private corporation. The coconut plantation funds were chargeable to the budget that year of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.
In his affidavit, Pagdanganan said he found nothing irregular with the transaction, saying the P30 million was invested with the private corporation for the latter to construct the coconut processing plant in Quezon.
Among Pagdanganan’s co-accused are Avila and Bienvenido Garrido, National Council on Food Security and Job Creation executive directors; Rodolfo Vargas, Philippine Coconut Authority deputy administrator; and Victorio Conducto and Domingo Lavilla, board members of the Calauag, Quezon Province Integrated Coconut Processing Plant Inc.
Pagdanganan is the agrarian reform secretary of former president Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo from Jan. 2003 to Jan. 2004. He served as tourism secretary from 2004 to 2005. AC
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