Sandiganbayan rejects motion for reconsideration of former DA secretary

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division junked the motion for reconsideration filed by former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap seeking to convince the court to drop the graft charges against him in relation to a reportedly anomalous P15.8-million car loan for the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice).

Former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO) Former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap (MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

Yap, who was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) from 2008 to 2009, had been slapped with one violation each of Section 3(e) and 3(g) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, due to the reportedly irregular P15.8-million car loan plans given to their Board of Trustees.

The anti-graft court earlier junked his motion to quash, so he filed a motion for reconsideration dated January 9, 2019 and argued that he was absent during the 54th meeting of the Board of Trustees of PhilRice during which the subject car loans were discussed and approved.

He added that there is no law or rule that requires the accused in preliminary proceedings to follow up on their cases with the Office of the Ombudsman, so the period of three and a half years already constitutes as inordinate delay.

Because of this delay, Yap said he was unduly prejudiced.

Sadly for him, the anti-graft court found that the arguments in his MR "were already passed upon and resolved."

"The Office of the Ombudsman had to consider their right to due process and the Office of the Special Prosecutor had to review the cases again so that only the cases that could stand the rigors of trial would be filed," the resolution read.

"Under these circumstances, the said period is not capricious, oppressive and vexatious."

The seven-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Karl Miranda with the concurrence of Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Karl Narce Vivero.

In the charge sheet filed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Russell Labor-Lay-At, Yap was accused alongside PhilRice Board of Trustees members Johnifer Batara, Fe Laysa, William Padolina, Winston Corvera, Gelia Castillo, Senen Bacani, Rodolfo Undan, and Executive Director Ronillo Beronio and Cashier Fe Lumawag.

They were accused of instituting a car plan that allowed several employees to obtain personal loans from Philippine National Bank (PNB) for the purchase of private cars.

Beronio and Lumawag entered into a contract with the bank and signed Hold Out Agreements (HOA) to enable the PhilRice Car Plan, even though it subjected "PhilRice's deposit with PNB to the agreement that said deposit will not be withdrawn until the car/personal loans guaranteed are paid in full amounting to P15,780,000."

At the same time, the private cars were even leased by PhilRice for the official use of all the beneficiaries despite the fact that they were still entitled to transportation allowances.

As a result, PhilRice was not able to utilize its deposits with PNB during the subsistence of the loans and its failure to obtain the best possible car rental deals, among other things.