Cito Lorenzo says plunder charge defective

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 10 2011 07:17 PM | Updated as of Aug 11 2011 06:57 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Former Agriculture Secretary has asked the Sandiganbayan to quash the plunder charge filed against him in connection with the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

In an 18-page reply filed through counsels, Lorenzo said the charge sheet filed by the Office of the Ombudsman is defective.

He said the Ombudsman had conducted against him a preliminary investigation for graft and malversation, which is not consistent with the contents of the plunder charge.

“Necessarily, only those allegations were answered by Lorenzo in his counter-affidavit. He was not afforded the opportunity to file a counter-affidavit which would respond to an accusation of plunder, for the basic and simple reason that no allegations of plunder were made against him at the preliminary investigation. How then can it be said that he was afforded his right to due process?” he said.

He also noted that he is being held liable for “abandonment or negligence,” which could not be connected to the crime. In plunder, the conspiracy angle should be proven.

“Negligence cannot possibly co-exist with conspiracy. In addition, the allegation of abandonment or negligence contradicts the nature of plunder, which is a heinous crime… committed with criminal intent,” he said.

“If [Lorenzo] would be subjected to trial, he would be incarcerated during such trial, which promises to be long and drawn-out, given the complexity of the case, the sheer volume of the records and the number of the accused. The State cannot take shortcuts, because in a non-bailable offense, the liberty of the accused is at stake,” he added.

Also named in the plunder case filed last July 4 are: former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn I. Bolante and former Asst. Secretary Ibarra T. C. Poliquit as principal defendants along with liquid fertilizer suppliers Jaime Paule, Marilyn Araos, Joselito Flordeliza, Marites Aytona, Jose Barredo and Leonicia Marco-Llarena.

Lorenzo also asked the Sandiganbayan to stall any issuance of a warrant of arrest absent a ruling on his plea.