SC affirms ex-Isabela guv’s indictment over P25-M rice mess

MANILA The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed the indictment of former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca and two others over the 2006 award of PHP25-million project to Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation, Inc. (EDWINLFI).

In a 12-page decision dated Oct. 24 penned by Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr., the High Court's Second Division junked the petitions filed by Padaca, municipal councilor Servando Soriano and Dionisio Pine, manager of EDWINLFI.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Estela Perlas-Bernabe concurred in the decision.

The petitioners had sought the reversal of the Office of the Ombudsman's January 2011 and September 2012 resolutions finding probable cause to indict them.

The Ombudsman had ruled Padaca engaged the services of EDWINLFI to manage Isabela's provincial rice program without due regard to the rules on government procurement.

It also noted that the fact that EDWINLFI's officers include Soriano and provincial government's legal officer Johnas Lamonera raises a suspicion as to the regularity of the transaction. The Ombudsman said there is probable cause to believe that Padaca gave unwarranted preference and benefits to EDWINLFI which is penalized under Section3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

(T)he Court concurs with the Sandiganbayan that no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess in jurisdiction can be attributed to the Ombudsman, as the latter's finding of probable cause rest on substantial basis, the Court ruled.

The Sandiganbayan aptly limited its determination of probable cause to resolve whether arrest warrants should be issued against petitioners. There is no allegation, much less proof, how this judicial determination was exercised in a capricious, whimsical or arbitrary manner, the Court explained.

In sum, there is no cogent reason to disturb the Ombudsman's finding of probable cause and the Sandiganbayan's denial of Soriano and Pine's omnibus motion. The Court cannot and will not nullify the Ombudsman's factual findings on the sole ground that the complainant did not agree with such findings, the tribunal said. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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