SC orders start of trial proceedings in Chingkoe, Andutan tax fraud case

THE Supreme Court (SC) has given the Sandiganbayan the go-signal to proceed with the trial and disposition of the graft and estafa charges filed against textile company owner Grace Chingkoe and a former official of the Department of Finance in connection with the multimillion-peso tax credit scam more than two decades ago.

In a 26-page decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the Court’s Second Division held that the Sandiganbayan did not commit grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in denying the petition filed by Chingkoe and Uldarico Andutan Jr.’s motions to quash or dismiss the cases against them on the ground of violation of their constitutional right to due process and speedy disposition of cases.

Chingkoe was the corporate secretary of Filstar Textile Industrial Corp. that was incorporated in 1989. The company is a manufacturer and importer-exporter of yarns, threads, laces and fabrics.

Andutan was the former deputy executive director of the One-Stop-Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center of the Department of Finance (DOF).

The Court held that although a case may be dismissed on the ground of violation of the accused right to speedy disposition cases, the petitioners failed to invoke this constitutional right in a timely manner.

“Here petitioners filed their motion to quash after the lapse of almost six years, after their arraignment, and only after public respondent rendered its resolutions. It can be reasonably assumed that the filing of the motion is a mere afterthought, and not because they experienced ‘vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays’ during the preliminary investigation before the Office of the Ombudsman,” the SC said.

“For failing to follow the rules and sleeping on their right for almost six years, thereafter waiting until the information were filed with the respondent, after finding out that the cases against the other accused were dismissed on the basis of their violation of their right to speedy disposition of cases, petitioners evidently failed to timely assert their right to speedy disposition of cases. They are deemed to have assented to the delay,” it added.

The Court also rejected the petitioners’ claim of violation of their right to equal protection as the cases against other individuals implicated in the tax credit scam have already been dismissed.

The SC pointed out that the accused failed to prove that they committed similar acts with the other accused for which they were charged with.

The petitioners, according to the Court, also failed to show that they have the same arguments and evidence and that they went through the same proceedings but the outcome was different.

“Accordingly, there is no merit to their argument that their constitutional right to equal protection of the law has been violated,” the SC declared.

“Accordingly, the petitions for certiorari are denied. The Sandiganbayan is hereby directed to dispose of Criminal Case nos. SB-09-CRM-0087, 0097, 0098, 0101, 0102, 0107, 0118, 0127, and 0128 with reasonable dispatch,” the Court ordered.

The Ombudsman claimed the Chingkoes conspired with government officials in causing the issuance of the tax credit certificates (TCC) in favor of Filstar, even if it is not qualified to receive tax credit incentives under the Omnibus Investment Code of 1987.

The TCCs were supposed to be used by Filstar to pay its tax and duties obligations but were instead transferred to oil companies Petron Corp. and Pilipinas Shell as payment for fuel excise tax.

Court records showed that on March 18, 2003, the Special Task Force 156 filed a complaint against officials of the One-Stop-Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center, as well as private individuals, in connection with the irregularities in the issuance of TCCs.

Among those  accused were Chingkoe and Andutan.

Andutan was accused of giving “unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference” to Filstar, Petron Corporation and Pilipinas Shell, by recommending approval of the evaluation reports of the tax credit application of Filstar and for subsequently recommending the approval and transfer of the TCCs from Filstar to Petron and Shell.

On the other hand, Chingkoe, the corporate secretary of Filstar, allegedly used and submitted spurious and falsified documents relative to the issuance of TCC in favor of Filstar, as well as the subsequent transfer of the TCCs to Petron and Pilipinas Shell in conspiracy with some government officials and employees.


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