MANILA, Philippines - A plan to revive a P104 million graft case against Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid and former Pampanga provincial administrator Enrico P. Quiambao has been junked more than 2 years after Ombudsman prosecutors said the petition should be rejected.
In a manifestation filed yesterday, Prosecution Bureau VI director Diosdado V. Calonge and assistant special prosecutors Elita B. Santos and Mariter V. Delfin-Santos informed the Sandiganbayan First Division that the anti-graft body has denied former Pampanga Vice Governor Cielito Macapagal-Salgado’s motion for reconsideration seeking reversal of the June 25, 2008 memorandum withdrawing the case against Lapid and Quiambao.
A close inspection of the Ombudsman’s resolution showed it was submitted by Delfin-Santos and Santos way back November 12, 2008.
It took 28 months before former Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Mark Jalandoni approved their recommendation. No explanation was provided as to the delay.
Jalandoni resigned last April 7 amid accusations of dishonesty and gross misconduct. He however denied all allegations insisting that he stepped down “to spare the Office of the Ombudsman from further controversy”.
Salgado had accused Lapid and Qiambao of fraud in approving the purchase in 1997 of a 40-hectare property in San Fernando, Pampanga for P104 million. At the time, Lapid was provincial governor of Pampanga.
The complainant said the property was only worth P5 million based on documents submitted to the Bureau of Internal Revenue by Abelardo Miranda, the former landowner.
In its June 2008 memorandum, the Ombudsman ordered the dropping of charges against the two noting that Lapid’s action belied allegations of irregularity regarding the transaction.
It pointed out that Lapid requested a joint investigation by the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation after learning about the undervaluation while then Provincial Treasurer Jovito S. Sabado wrote to Miranda calling his attention to the deficient payment of duties and demanding settlement of the correct amount of transfer tax ‘as early as possible’.
On March 2, 1998, Miranda entered into a compromise agreement with BIR to settle his accountabilities and abate penalties which was approved by then BIR Commissioner Beethoven Rualo in June 1999.
Likewise the Ombudsman noted that the provincial government eventually realized a P39.5 million profit from the sale of the property on July 29, 2002 for P143.5 million that destroys the very basis for the graft case which was undue injury to the government.
“Complainant does not dispute that the Province of Pampanga earned a profit of P39,500,000 from the sale of the property to Rightpark International Corporation. Hence, lacking the essential element of actual damage, the charge of violation of RA 3019, section (e) necessarily fails,” the Ombudsman said.