By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Second Division saw no reason why it should suspend the proceedings of the case against former Nueva Ecija Governor Aurelio Umali, who is facing graft and malversation charges due to the irregular implementation of agricultural development programs back in 2005.
Umali filed an urgent motion to hold in abeyance determination of probable cause on May 6 while waiting for the Office of the Ombudsman to resolve his motion for reconsideration.
The Ombudsman issued a resolution dated November 14, 2016 finding probable cause against Umali and several others for violating four graft and three malversation charges. Umali then filed an MR, which was denied in an order dated September 29, 2017. He then filed a secondary MR on May 2, 2019.
In his MR, Umali is urging the Ombudsman to revisit his case because of newly-discovered evidence that establish the actual delivery of irrigation pumps to the intended beneficiaries of the SMPGI projects.
However, the anti-graft court noted that Umali violated Section 7 of Administrative Order No. 7 of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman, which states that “only one motion for reconsideration or reinvestigation of an approved order or resolution shall be allowed.”
His MR filed on May 2 is “already a second motion for reconsideration, which is disallowed under Section 7(a) of Administrative Order No. 7,” the court ruled.
“Furthermore, while the Information had already been filed with the Court on April 26, 2019, accused Umali did not seek leave of court when he filed another MR with the Office of the Ombudsman on May 2, 2019. This constitutes another violation of Section 7(a) of Administrative Order No. 7,” the resolution stated.
Back in December 2005, when he was the 3rd District Representative of Nueva Ecija, Umali and his co-accused chose and endorsed Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi Inc. (SMPGI) as “project partner” in the implementation of agricultural development programs, which were funded by his office and the Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary’s office.
SMPGI was chosen even without the conduct of public bidding, and the accused disregarded the fact that it was unaccredited and unqualified to undertake the projects.
The first graft and malversation charge involved P450,000 being awarded to SMPGI, while the second and fourth graft and malversation charges were for P1,050,000 and P1,500,000, respectively.
The third graft charge, on the other hand, involved Umali using his priority development assistance fund (PDAF) for the implementation of livelihood projects. The accused officials chose and endorsed MAMFI as the “project partner” in the implementation of the said projects.