SC clears Enrile, Danding of graft raps over alleged UCPB behest loans
By MARK MERUEÑAS, GMA News July 13, 2012 3:50pm
The Supreme Court has cleared Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and business tycoon Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr. of graft charges stemming from their alleged behest loans as board of directors of United Coconut Planters Bank during the Marcos regime.
In an en banc decision penned by Associate Justice Roberto Abad and released to media Friday, the high court said the government can no longer prosecute Enrile, Cojuangco, and 16 others for graft and corruption because the charges had already prescribed.
In the case of Enrile, Cojuango and the others, the graft charges were filed on March 1, 1990 or more tha 10 years after the supposed crime was committed in 1979. The prescriptive period in this case was 10 years.
"Prescription of actions is a valued rule in all civilized states from the beginning of organized society," the SC decision read.
"It is a rule of fairness since, without it, the plaintiff can postpone the filing of his action to the point of depriving the defendant, through the passage of time, of access to defense witnesses who would have died or left to live elsewhere, or to documents that would have been discarded or could no longer be located," the court added.
The high court's ruling was an affirmation of a May 14, 1999 Office of the Ombudsman decision absolving the charged individuals because "while it found sufficient basis to indict respondents for violation of Section 3e of Republic Act 3019, the action has already prescribed."
RA 3019 is otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The other absolved respondents apart from Enrile and Cojuangco were:
Jose R. Eleazar Jr;
Jose C. Conception;
Rolando P. dela Cuesta;
Emmanuel M. Almeda;
Hermenegildo C. Zayco;
Narciso M. Pineda;
Inaki R. Mendezona;
Danilo S. Ursua;
Teodoro D. Regala;
Victor P. Lazatin;
Eleazar B. Reyes;
Leo J. Palma;
Douglas Lu Ym;
Sigfredo Veloso; and
The high court said that while the 1987 Constitution states that the recovery of ill-gotten wealth from President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies would not prescribe, the criminal charges involving them do.
The graft charges stemmed from an August 29, 1979 resolution authorizing the UCPB to invest not more than P500 million in the United Coconut Oil Mills, Inc. (Unicom) for the benefit of coconut farmers.
The Board of Directors that gave the go signal to invest the money was composed of Cojuangco, Enrile the late Maria Clara L. Lobregat, Eleazar, Concepcion, Dela Cuesta, Almeda, Zayco, Pineda, Mendezona and Ursua.
Unicom was incorporated on April 25, 1977 with an autorized capital stock of P100 million.
After UCPB invested money, Unicom on Sept. 4, 1979 increased its authorized capital stock to 10 million shares without par value and it was increased to P495 million.
This was approved by the new set of Unicom directors which includes Cojuangco and Enrile.
Two weeks later, on Sept. 18, 1979, another amendment to Unicom's capitalization was authorized, increasing its authorized capital stock to one billion shares.
A decade later, on March 1, 19990, the Office of the Solicitor General under President Corazon Aquino's administration filed a graft case against the 18 individuals before the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
The PCGG in turn filed the case with the Office of the Ombudsman, the Office of the Special Prosecutor of which on March 15, 1999 said the charges cannot be pursued because the act has already prescribed. The Office of the Ombudsman approved this findings of its special prosecutor. — RSJ, GMA News