Malampaya 'scam' top defendant dies; 3 employees seek case dismissal | Inquirer News
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Malampaya ‘scam’ top defendant dies; 3 employees seek case dismissal

/ 10:43 AM April 25, 2017
Malampaya gas field

Malampaya gas field

MANILA — Three mid-level government employees implicated in the misuse of P1.53 billion in Malampaya gas field royalties have cited the March 18 death of principal defendant Charlie Factor as basis for the dismissal of their cases.

Factor, the former provincial engineer of Palawan, succumbed to acute respiratory failure at the MMG-PPC Cooperative Hospital in Puerto Princesa City at the age of 71.

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He had been ailing from pancreatic cancer with liver and lung metastases, according to the death certificate submitted by lawyer Winston Gonzales to the Sandiganbayan Second Division on April 22.

Just weeks before on Feb. 24, state prosecutors charged Factor with 76 counts of falsification, 50 counts of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and seven counts of violating Presidential Decree No. 1759, which penalizes violations of material provisions in government contracts.

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This meant he was implicated in 133 out of the 159 charges filed by Ombudsman prosecutors in February—even more than the 36 cases filed against former Governor Joel Reyes, currently detained pending trial for the murder of broadcaster Gerry Ortega who helped uncover the alleged scheme.

But, Factor died without being issued an arrest warrant and without being arraigned for the charges. The arraignment was only set on April 25.

No more jurisdiction?

In the aftermath of Factor’s death, four mid-level employees are now arguing that the Sandiganbayan effectively lost jurisdiction over their respective criminal cases.

Under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 10660,  the trial courts have exclusive jurisdiction in cases where none of the accused have a salary grade of 27 or higher.

Commission on Audit senior technical audit specialist Ronelo del Socorro and Palawan resident engineer Romeo Llacuna jointly claimed the remaining defendants in the Malampaya cases “only occupied their respective positions with salary grade 24 or lower.” Even Factor, they argued, was ranked at salary grade 26.

Another resident engineer, Bernard Zambales, also raised the same argument in his separate motion to dismiss. All three employees had a salary grade of 19 at the time and were all represented by lawyer Efren Dizon.

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Death certificate of Charlie Factor, principal accused in the Malampaya fund scam case (PHOTO BY VINCE NONATO / INQUIRER)

Death certificate of Charlie Factor, principal accused in the Malampaya fund scam case (PHOTO BY VINCE NONATO / INQUIRER)

“The subject cases are not within the jurisdiction of the Honorable Court in view of the death of the principal accused before judicial determination of probable cause was completed, thereby leaving the remaining accused who are all below salary grade 27 not covered under Section 2 of Republic Act No. 10660,” both motions read.

Del Socorro faces one count each of graft, falsification and violation of PD 1759. Lacuna was charged with two counts of falsification and one count each of graft and violation, while four counts of graft and two of falsification were filed against Zambales.

The Malampaya cases were filed in connection with anomalies allegedly surrounding 209 contracts funded by the royalties received by the provincial government following then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s issuance of Executive Order No. 683 in 2007. The projects were cornered by 11 contractors.

Prosecutors accused the provincial engineer’s office, as well as two state auditors including Del Socorro, of fabricating accomplishment reports to justify payment for 39 unfinished projects worth P461.37 million.  SFM

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TAGS: Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Bernard Zambales, case jurisdiction, Charlie Factor, corruption, courts, Crime, Efren Dizon, falsification of public documents, former governor, Gerry Ortega, ghost projects, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Graft, high school principals, Joel Reyes, jurisdiction over cases, Justice, law, litigation, Malampaya fund scam, Malampaya gas field royalties, motion to dismiss case, Office of the Ombudsman, Palawan, pancreatic cancer, Plunder, provincial employees, provincial engineer, Ronelo del Socorro Romeo Llacuna, Sandiganbayan, trials, Winston Gonzales
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