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SC affirms dismissal of graft raps vs. late tycoon Roberto Ongpin, others

The Supreme Court has affirmed the dismissal of graft complaints against the late business tycoon Roberto Ongpin and former government officials in connection with the granting of a $20-million loan in 1980.

In a 16-page decision promulgated on January 17, the SC First Division dismissed a petition for certiorari assailing the 2012 resolution and order of the Office of the Ombudsman that dismissed the charges.

The Ombudsman had dismissed the graft complaints against Ongpin, a former Trade minister, as well as former Tourism minister Jose Aspiras, former Philippine National Bank (PNB) Senior Vice-President Gerardo Agulto Jr., and former PNB Executive Vice-President Domingo Ingco.

It also dismissed the charges against Marbella Club Manilla Incorporated (Marbella) Executive Vice President Bernardo Vergara, Marbella Vice-President Federico Salcedo, and Marbella Vice-President Merle Deen.

The case stemmed from the complaint filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) against the respondents alleging that in April 1979, barely six months after Marbella was incorporated, a PNB subsidiary approved the request of Marbella for issuance of an NIDC Letter of Guaranty to guarantee foreign credit in the principal amount of $20 million.

According to the PCGG, the respondents acted with manifest partiality, bad faith, or inexcusable negligence. It said PNB approved the loan even before it became the registered owner of the land.

The Ombudsman, however, dismissed the complaint in August 2012 for lack of probable cause and denied the PCGG’s motion for reconsideration in October 2012.

Due to this, the PCGG filed a petition before the Supreme Court against the Ombudsman for grave abuse of discretion.

For its part, the Supreme Court said the Ombudsman acted pursuant to its mandate and did not commit grave abuse of discretion.

“Accordingly, this Court upholds the principle of non-interference with the investigatory and prosecutorial powers of the Ombudsman absent any showing of grave abuse of discretion on its part and of the established exceptions for this Court to do so,” the high court said.

The SC further said that the Ombudsman found no proof of manifest partiality, evident bad faith, or gross inexcusable negligence on the part of the respondents.

It said the Ombudsman’s decision was anchored on the fact that Marbella was not a fictional corporation.

“The Ombudsman’s determination of probable cause does not resolve the accused’s guilt or innocence but evaluates whether the evidence presented before it would engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed or that the accused is probably guilty fo committing said crime,” the SC said.

Ongpin, chairman of Alphaland Corporation, died on February 4, 2023 at the age of 86. —KBK, GMA Integrated News