Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Padaca seeks relief from SC

MANILA, Philippines - Former Isabela governor Grace Padaca sought relief from the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday against her indictment before the Sandiganbayan for alleged graft and malversation of public funds in connection with a P25-million contract for a hybrid rice program in 2006. In a 45-page petition, Padaca specifically asked the SC to stop the anti-graft court from proceeding with the case and nullify the resolutions issued by the Office of the Ombudsman in January and February last year finding probable cause in the complaint filed against her and other provincial officials by former Isabela congressman Santiago Respicio. “In finding probable cause against petitioner, the public respondent (Ombudsman) failed to appreciate the totality of circumstances and the unmistakable facts or record that the execution of the MOA (memorandum of agreement) is borne out of petitioner’s honest belief that she had the authorization and support of the SP (Sangguniang Panlalawigan), and that she was pursuing a program that will uplift the quality of life of Isabela’s rice farmers through the Provincial Rice Program, which is intended to increase the farmers’ earning potentials,” Padaca said. The former governor was accused of favoring a non-government organization, the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. (EDWINLFI), in the award of a P25-million priority hybrid rice project. Padaca was charged by the anti-graft office with violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation of public funds under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code before the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division. The Ombudsman said Padaca illegally awarded the contract to EDWINLFI to manage the supervised credit and seed distribution facility for farmers as it was done without public bidding or any other legitimate procurement procedure. But Padaca insisted that she acted in good faith and there was no intention on her part to benefit from the project. She claimed there was no need for a public bidding and that the memorandum of agreement they entered into with EDWINLFI contained sufficient safeguards to prevent the latter from getting unwarranted benefits and to protect the provincial government from being disadvantaged. Padaca said that under RA 3019, a public officer may be held liable for violation of this law if there is a showing that he or she acted with manifest partiality, evident bad faith or inexcusable negligence; his or her action caused injury to the government; and gave unwarranted benefit or preference in the discharge of his or her functions. Padaca said she acted within the bounds of her authority and in good faith in executing a MOA with EDWINLFI considering that it had the provincial board’s approval. Padaca added that it was her belief that her decision to enter into the MOA would not put the provincial government at a disadvantage but rather it would beneficial to her constituents who are mostly rice farmers. Last week, the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division chaired by Associate Justice Roland Jurado issued an arrest warrant for Padaca. The court set Padaca’s bail at P40,000 for the malversation case and P30,000 for the graft case. – With Cecille Suerte Felipe - By Edu Punay