Ombudsman dismisses graft complaint vs. former DENR Sec. Lopez, and private company chief

By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki

The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed the graft complaint filed against former Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Secretary Gina Lopez, who allegedly received "a gift or material benefit" from an environmental firm, due to lack of probable cause.

DENR Secretary Gina Lopez (MANILA BULLETIN) Gina Lopez

Vienna Tañada, the Business Development Officer of Ecoglobal Inc., filed the complaint against Lopez and their Chief Executive Officer Jean-Philippe Albert Guy Henry for violations of Section 3(c) and 4(b) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

On July 19, 2016, Lopez was invited by Ecoglobal Foundation Inc. (EFI) to Paris to see various wastewater projects. Tañada said the hotel accommodations, flight bookings, and travel allowances were all shouldered by Eco-global. The trip reportedly cost around P2,057,743.70.

In its 10-page ruling, the Ombudsman ruled that there is no probable cause against Lopez and Henry.

The Ombudsman said in its resolution that the trip to France could not qualify as "receiving any gift" within the meaning of the law. "Albeit the all-expense paid trip to Paris extended to Secretary Lopez is technically a gift given gratuitously by SIAAP (Syndicat Interdepartmental pour l’Assainissement de l’Agglomeration Parisienne), the qualifying circumstance that the same be manifestly excessive is lacking," the resolution read.

The 10-page resolution dated September 15, 2017, was signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Bonifacio G. Mandrilla. It was reviewed by Acting Director Maricel M. Marcial-Oquendo on October 11, with the approval of Assistant Ombudsman Aleu A. Amante on November 8.