THE Supreme Court has cleared former cronies of the late strongman former President Ferdinand Marcos, including former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and several others of criminal liabilities, over the alleged behest loans granted to a sugar milling company in 1968 by the Philippine National Bank (PNB).
In a 15-page ruling penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., the SC’s Second Division denied the petition for certiorari filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) seeking to set aside the resolution issued by the Office of the Ombudsman on December 29, 2006, and the order dated April 21, 2009, which respectively dismissed for lack of probable cause the criminal complaints filed against the respondents.
The Court held that the Office of the Ombudsman did not err in dismissing the complaint for violation of the provisions of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act, filed by the PCGG against PNB directors in 1968, namely Enrile, Roberto Benedicto, Antonio Diaz, Ismael Reinoso, Simeon Miranda, Renato Tayag, Juan Trivinio, Cesar E.A. Virata, Jose Macario Laurel IV and Jose Leido.
Also cleared were Rafael Perez and Felicisimo Gonzalo, both former PNB-Dumaguete branch managers and the officers of Tolong Sugar Milling Co. Inc. (TSMCI), namely Ramon Escafio, Herminio Teves, Evelina Teves, Lorenzo Teves, Catalino Noel and Lamberto Macias.
“Simply stated, no grave abuse of discretion may be attributed to the Ombudsman merely because of its alleged misappreciation of facts and evidence. The petitioner in a certiorari proceeding must clearly demonstrate that the court or tribunal blatantly abused its authority, to a point so grave, as to deprive it of its very power to dispense justice,” the Court ruled.
“In this case, the PCGG failed to show that the Ombudsman gravely abused its discretion when it dismissed the criminal complaint against the respondents. Instead, the instant petition is bereft of any statement or allegation purportedly showing that the Ombudsman exercised its power in an arbitrary or despotic manner by reason of passion or hostility…. Consequently, the instant petition must be dismissed,” it added.
In its complaint, the PCGG said TSMCI was one of the many companies that was investigated by the Presidential Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Committee’s Technical Working Group for possible prosecution arising from behest loans.
The TWG’s examination disclosed that on March 20, 1968, PNB granted TSMCI a standby irrevocable unconfirmed letter of credit in the amount of $27,793,123.45 or P108.91 million to cover the importation of sugar machinery and equipment in connection with TSMCI’s proposed sugar central at Santa Catalina and Bayawan, in Negros Oriental.