Sandiganbayan proceeds with graft trial vs ex-N. Cotabato lawmaker

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 29 2017 09:19 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division has denied the motion for judicial determination filed by former North Cotabato 2nd District Representative and dismissed Vice Governor Gregorio Ipong in his P9.6-million graft case in relation to the multibillion peso "pork barrel" scam.

In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez, the court said it has already determined the existence of probable cause against Ipong upon the issuance of an arrest warrant against him on June 6. 

Ipong filed his motion on June 20. 

“Hence, the principal prayer for a judicial determination of probable cause becomes a superfluity,” the court said in its resolution, where Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez concurred. 

The court added that the necessary conditions for probable cause, such as the offense, acts or omissions, and names of the offended party, were included in the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman. 

“Guided by the foregoing and after a cursory reading of the Informations, this Court finds sufficiency and that the ultimate facts indeed exist therein,” the court said. 

In his motion, Ipong also mentioned that as a lawmaker, he was not responsible for the accreditation of non-government organization Aaron Foundation Philippines, recipient of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). 

But the court junked his plea and said other issues he raised would be best tackled during the trial. 

“Relative to the other grounds raised by accused-movant Ipong in support of his Motion, this Court finds the same to be matters of evidence best threshed out in a full-blown trial on the merits, where both parties may exhaustively ventilate their respective positions,” the court said.

Ipong is accused of funneling P9.6 million of his PDAF to non-existent projects through the now-defunct Technology and Livelihood Resource Center in April 2007. 

His case is among several that stemmed from the roughly P10-billion fund diversion scheme allegedly orchestrated by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles in collusion with lawmakers.