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Sandiganbayan acquits ex-DOF official, eight execs over P380 million tax credit scam

The Sandiganbayan has cleared a former Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Uldarico Andutan, Jr. and eight other executives of private corporations in the graft charges involving the transfer of least P380 million of Tax Credit Certificates (TCCs).

In a 53-page decision dated February 21, the anti-graft court said that the prosecution failed to present evidence that the transfer of TCC from eight companies to Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corporation had no legal basis.

“While the [criminal] Informations generally alleged lack of legal basis for the transfers of TCCs, it failed to specify with particularity why the transfers were without legal basis, which is supposedly the ultimate fact constituting the charges,” the Sandiganbayan said.

“In these cases, the allegations in the Informations that the assailed transfers of the TCCs were "without legal basis” is a conclusion of law. Stated differently, there is simply no facts alleged in the Informations as basis in pressing the charges against the accused that will guide the Court in assessing whether the assailed transfers of the TCCs were indeed without legal basis,” the Sandiganbayan added.

The prosecution argued that the transfer of TCCs from the companies to Pilipinas Shell is illegal since the latter is not a supplier of domestic raw material or component of the registered activity or products of the private firms, and thus, is unqualified to be a transferee of the subject TCCs.

The anti-graft court, however, rejected this argument by citing two previous Supreme Court decisions stating that Pilipinas Shell, registered entity in the Board of Investment, need not be a capital equipment provider or a supplier of raw material and/or component supplier to the transferors to receive TCCs originally issued by the DOF.

“The argument [of the prosecution] is bereft of merit. The prosecution 's evidence as regards the illegality of the issuance of the subject TCCs to the private firms are directed mainly at Pilipinas She's qualification to be a transferee, which has already been squarely passed upon and discussed above in accordance with the Supreme Court pronouncements on Pilipinas Shell's qualification to be a transferee of TCCs, it being BOI-registered," the Sandiganbayan said.

"It has been ruled by jurisprudential fiat that Pilipinas Shell is a qualified transferee, thus, no unwarranted benefit or preference was given to it by the assailed TCC transfers,” the Sandiganbayan added.

Aside from Andutan, the court also cleared Emerito Guballa, assistant manager of Nikko Textile Mills, Inc.; Belinda Torres, chief accountant of Fibertex Corp.; Ester Gabaldon, vice president for finance of Fibertex Corp.; John Cua, vice president of Fibrefill Manufacturing, Inc.; Lila Dhar Sharma, general manager of Indo Phils. Cotton Mills, Inc.; Angel Chua of Jantex Phils. Inc.; Edgardo Olandez, general manager of Mannequin International and Fernando Orendez, general manager of Jibtex Industrial, Corp.

Likewise, the anti-graft court has ordered the lifting of the Hold Departure Order issued against the erstwhile accused and the release of their cash bonds subject to usual accounting and audit procedures. —LDF, GMA News