SC upholds Ombudsman’s dismissal of P288M behest loans case versus Enrile, PNB execs
The Supreme Court (SC) has upheld the decision of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to dismiss the Presidential Commission on Good Government’s (PCGG) P288.09-million behest loans complaint against Philippine National Bank (PNB) officials, including Juan Ponce Enrile.
In a recent 15-page decision, the SC 2nd Division denied the PCGG’s appeal on the Ombudsman’s June 23, 2006 decision, which cited the ground of prescription.
The case involved the formerly state-owned bank’s grant of loans to Bicolanda Sugar Development Corporation (Bisudeco) in 10 instances from October 1971 to January 1985. This was despite the company’s lack of capital and collateral, as well as continued losses.
The SC agreed with the Ombudsman’s ruling that the offenses committed before 1982—pertaining to five loan transactions involving P222.09 million—could no longer be prosecuted.
This was because at the time, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act provided for violations to be extinguished within a 10-year prescriptive period.
This was only extended to 15 years with the passage of Batas Pambansa Bilang 195 in March 1982.
Counting from the discovery of the anomaly through an April 4, 1994 report submitted to the President, the PCGG acted too late when it filed the complaint before the Ombudsman on January 28, 2005.
On the other hand, the SC said the 15-year period could be applied to P66-million loan transactions that took place after 1982.
Yet, the SC said it would “not interfere” with Gutierrez’s finding that there was a lack of documents to establish probable cause against the PNB officials.
It said the PCGG could not simply invoke the membership of the respondents, including Enrile, in the PNB board of directors to hold them liable.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Andres Reyes, Jr.