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Ongpin’s reputation immaterial to insider trading case—lawyer

/ 05:25 PM September 01, 2016
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Businessman Roberto Ongpin. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The government lawyers’ attack on the reputation of business tycoon Roberto V. Ongpin is immaterial to the insider trading case where the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) meted out to him a penalty of P174 million, the businessman’s lawyer said Thursday.

During a hearing on Thursday, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) told the Court of Appeals that Ongpin is also subject of an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate.

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Ongpin was also tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte as an “oligarch” with government connections.

“They are introducing ad hominem arguments that is all immaterial,” Atty. Estelito Mendoza said.

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“They say Mr. Ongpin had several cases and the President said he is an oligarch. [But] that’s beside the point. We are dealing with a case which is now in court. It is basic under our rules of procedural due process [that] you must limit the issues to the issues arising from the pleadings,” the veteran lawyer told reporters.

He pointed out that reputation is merely an opinion.

“What is reputation? Who has the right to say that a certain person’s reputation is good or bad,” Mendoza asked.

Ongpin went to the Court of Appeals after SEC issued an order last July 8 ordering him to pay a fine of P174 million for alleged insider trading involving Philex Mining shares on Dec. 2, 2009.

READ: Ongpin fined P174M for insider trading

He allegedly profited from trading of Philex Mining shares on Dec. 2, 2009 using insider information.

The SEC ruled that Ongpin “was able to consolidate the required number of shares, supplementing his block of shares with the shares brought from the open market, sold them to the subsidiary of First Pacific at the privately agreed price of P21 per share, thereafter giving the First Pacific group control over Philex.”

He was able to secure a 60-day temporary restraining order against the SEC ruling.

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READ: Ongpin gets 60-day reprieve from SEC sanction

Mendoza also questioned why it took the SEC almost five years to charge Ongpin with insider trading. He said the prescriptive period has already lapsed.

He explained that the prescriptive period to charge Ongpin for the alleged offense is 3 years, contrary to the position taken by the SEC and its counsel, the OSG.

“The law provides that any action other than those specified for which a prescriptive period has been provided shall be filed not more than 3 years after discovery, and, in any other case not more than 5 years.”

“In this case the complaint was filed nearly 5 years—more than 3 years that the action has prescribed,” Mendoza said.

Mendoza stressed that “there is a law and a law can certainly not be impaired by any jurisprudence,” reacting to the OSG’s argument that the Supreme Court (SC) had ruled that an action for administrative sanctions may be filed for as long as there is “no abandonment of the action.”

He added that if the SEC really believed that Ongpin’s alleged violation was “so gross” that it increased the penalty of P17.4 million recommended by the SEC Enforcement and Investor Protection Department (EIPD) 10 times more, how come it took long before the commission initiated the action against Ongpin?

“It is just like a crime that is committed, if it is so violent, so blatant, so brutal, you must file it right away… kung maghihintay ka ng five taon, iba ang kahulugan: wala sigurong kaso o gumagawa lang ng kaso (if you will wait for five years, it has a different meaning: there is no case or they are just fabricating a case),” Mendoza said. RAM/rga

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TAGS: insider trading case, Roberto V. Ongpin, SEC, Securities and Exchange Commission
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