Prosecutors block release of ex-finance official arrested for plunder

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 24 2011 12:06 AM | Updated as of Mar 24 2011 11:07 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Government prosecutors have opposed a motion for release from detention filed by Uldarico Andutan Jr., a former Department of Finance official.

Andutan had been charged with plunder and has been arrested. He was the former deputy director of the department's One-Stop Shop Inter-Agency Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center.

In his motion, Andutan cited the graft court’s ruling issued last March 10 dismissing the plunder case and recalling arrest warrants against him and his co-accused for lack of probable cause.

In dismissing the case, the court held that the information was fatally defective for failing to identify any public official who was supposed to have amassed P50 million or more from the transactions involving the 28 tax credit certificates issued to garment firm Filstar Textile Industrial Corporation from 1995 to 1997.

Andutan’s co-accused include former Finance undersecretary and Center executive director Antonio Belicena, couple Faustino and Gloria Chingkoe, TCC reviewer Asuncion Magdaet, tax specialist 1 Rowena P. Malonzo, Filstar corporate secretary Grace Chingkoe, and Filstar representative Catalina Aranas Bautista.

The Chingkoe couple were identified as owners of Filstar.

Andutan said there is no longer any ground for his continued detention since the case has already been thrown out.

Prosecution Bureau VI director Diosdado Calonge and assistant special prosecutors Maria Janina Hidalgo and Gidget Rose Duque, however, argued Andutan’s motion is premature since the case has not been tried on merits.

They also pointed out that the Office of the Ombudsman filed a motion before the Supreme Court yesterday seeking reversal of the Sandiganbayan resolution that dismissed the case.

“The dismissal did not decide the merits of the case nor did it make a finding that defendant is not guilty of the offense charged. Accordingly, the dismissal does not amount to an acquittal,” the prosecutors said.

Government lawyers also noted that Andutan went in hiding for over a year since the arrest order was issued against him on April 3, 2009 until he was arrested inside the Iloilo Airport last November 8, 2010.

They pointed out that the accused even failed to attend his other cases in other divisions of the Sandiganbayan which, they said, showed a “propensity of the accused to evade” court processes.

The prosecution stressed that in the event that the Supreme Court upholds the validity of the plunder case, Andutan’s appearance in court “cannot be reasonably expected.”

“Hence, so as not to frustrate the ends of justice, it becomes incumbent upon this Honorable Court to secure the appearance of the accused in the eventuality that the case be remanded to this Honorable Court for further proceedings to determine his guilt or innocence,” prosecutors stressed.