Agri products supplier in Enrile graft case has no license, says witness
An officer-in-charge (OIC) at the City of Manila’s Bureau of Permit-Administrative Services on Thursday testified in the trial of the 15 counts of graft charges filed against Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Juan Ponce Enrile in connection with the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) when he was still senator.
Lawyer Katrina Abad, one of the witnesses of the prosecution, said that Nutri Growth Philippines Inc., the supposed supplier of agricultural products, was not issued a license to operate in Manila.
“No records found, your honor,” Abad responded when Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez asked if a Nutri Growth Philippines, Inc. with an address in Manila will appear on Manila’s Bureau of Permit-Administrative Services database.
The graft charges were also lodged against Enrile's former chief-of-staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Janet Napoles, among other government officials and civilians.
Abad said she worked in Manila’s Bureau of Permit-Administrative Services since 2004, and was promoted to Licensing Officer 1 in 2011 then promoted again to Licensing Officer 2 in 2015.
She said she was designated OIC at the permit services in 2019, a position she still occupies to this day.
Abad’s designation as OIC was repeatedly questioned by the defense counsels, but Fernandez said questions on her designation should be explained by appointing authorities.
“Go to the Civil Service for that. Now, let’s go back to the Sandiganbayan,” Fernandez said.
During redirect examination by government prosecutors, Abad told the court her appointment was issued through an order of the department's director. She also presented her appointment papers on her previous posts.
Lawyer Rony Garay, the counsel for Napoles, questioned Abad if she compared the database records to physical records in checking if Nutri Growth was ever issued a license to operate by the City of Manila.
Abad said she did not.
Asked by government prosecutors why she did not make such comparison, she said the protocol states that they would only cross check with the physical records if the concerned company is found on the database. She added physical records of licensing permits are only kept for a year.
Reyes was physically present during the trial. She was ordered temporarily released after nine years in detention by a Supreme Court order that granted her petition writ of habeas corpus due to violation of her constitutional right to speedy trial.
During previous hearings, farmers from Bulacan and Pangasinan also testified for the prosecution that they did not receive the agricultural products supposedly for them.—LDF, GMA Integrated News