MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division has ruled that the Malampaya cases involving former Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya, former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and businesswoman Janet Napoles should proceed as the court junked the various motions filed by the accused.
In a resolution promulgated August 20, the anti-graft court denied the various motions filed by the accused such as motion to quash, a motion for a bill of particulars, and motion to defer arraignment.
Andaya has argued that there should be a bill of particulars for each of the informations filed against him which should contain the facts, details and other necessary information.
“Contrary to accused-movant Andaya, Jr.’s allegation, an objective and careful reading of the one-hundred ninety-four informations in these cases reveals that there is nothing ambiguous or confusing in the allegations therein against him,” the court said in the resolution penned by Presiding Justice and Division Chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tan, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Lorifel Pahimna.
Andaya, Pangandaman, Napoles and 22 others, including the children of the Napoles, Jo Cristine and James Christopher, are accused of graft and malversation in connection with the allegedly illegal disbursement of P900 million Malampaya Funds.
The funds that were intended for relief and rehabilitation efforts after typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng in 2009 supposedly ended up in ghost livelihood projects.
The anti-graft court also said in its resolution that there was no inordinate delay in the proceedings conducted by the Office of the Ombudsman which went from October 3, 2013, when the National Bureau of Investigation filed the complaint, up to the filing of the informations at the Sandiganbayan on December 2, 2017.
“Each of the respondents (now accused) was given ample opportunity to present his/her side and answer the accusations against him/her through the submission of their respective counter-affidavits,” the court said.
The court also did not agree with the arguments of the Napoleses that they are not public officers and the accusations deprived them to know which specific acts or omissions constituted an offense.
“At any rate, the court holds that the subject informations need not be amended because they conform substantially to the form prescribed by the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure and they sufficiently apprise the accused of the cause and nature of the accusations against them,” the court said.
The court said the arguments of the accused are better discussed in a full-blown trial.
“In a catena of cases, the Supreme Court has consistently held that the validity of merits of a party’s defense and/or accusation, as well as the admissibility of testimonies and evidence of the parties are all evidentiary in nature. In other words, these are matters of defense which are best threshed out during trial on the merits,” the court said.
The court also emphasized that the rights of the accused against double jeopardy, due process and equal protection of the laws, were not violated.