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CA affirms estafa cases vs 6 rural bank execs

June 20, 2010 10:30pm

The Court of Appeals has affirmed a Department of Justice (DOJ) resolution charging six rural bank executives for allegedly making false representations in order to obtain some P389.90-million worth of loans from the state-run Development Bank of the Philippines.

The DOJ resolution issued January 4, 2005 upheld the prosecutors’ finding of reasonable cause against the officers of the defunct Hermosa Savings and Loans Bank Inc. (HSLBI) in connection with the 40 dubious loans they secured from the DBP from 1994 to 2000.

“The Court finds that the findings of the investigating state prosecutors were based on the evidence presented by both parties and were arrived at after a thorough review thereof. This is pursuant to their power to direct and control criminal prosecutions and to conduct preliminary investigations," the CA’s Eighth Division said in a 20-page resolution.

Facing 40 counts of large-scale estafa are Benjamin Cruz, the HSLBI’s president and general manager; Rodolfo Buenaventura; Librada Dio; Nilda Fajardo; Lelaine Fernandez; and the bank’s in-house lawyer Ligaya Cruz.

The appellate court held that then DOJ Secretary Raul Gonzalez did not abuse his authority or discretion in affirming the resolution of the prosecutors.

“The fact that several resolutions of the DOJ were subjected to several motions or reconsideration by the petitioners before the assailed resolution by the DOJ, through Secretary Gonzales, the Court believes that the case went through thorough review to determine which case or cases are to be filed in court," the Court said.

In their petition to overturn the DOJ decision, the respondents said they were not party to the loan transaction nor took part in the preparation of the documents submitted in relation to the loans.

They added that they were not aware of the said documents and never approved or verified them and that their signatures appearing on the documents were forged and they did not benefit from the loans.

Based on records of the case, HSLBI availed of 40 loans from the DBP from February 2, 1994 to November 29, 2000, which reached an aggregate amount of P389,809,867.

On March 31, 2001, a regular examination of HSLBI’s loan portfolio was conducted by the Department of Thrift Bank and Non-Bank Financial Institutions of the Bangko Sentral (BSP-DTBNBFI) and discovered suspicious tampering and alterations on the various loan documents submitted by the bank.

DBP conducted its own investigation to validate and verify the findings of the BSP-DTBNBFI and found that 40 of the 50 credit accounts were attended by fraudulent acts.

This prompted DBP, through its senior vice president and head of the Wholesale Banking Department, Valentina Ricasio, to file a criminal complaint before the DOJ against the HSLBI officers for estafa on December 19, 2001 against Cruz and his co-accused.

On November 18, 2002, DOJ state prosecutors Maria Regina Tordilla-Castillo and Melvin Abad issued a joint resolution that found probable cause to indict the petitioners. - KBK, GMANews.TV
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