SC affirms corruption trial of Grace Padaca at Sandiganbayan

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court affirmed the 2012 indictment of Isabela politician and former elections commissioner Grace Padaca, clearing the way for the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to continue holding trial.

This is for the graft and malversation charges against Padaca for allegedly giving undue advantage to Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc or (EDWINLFI), a non-governmental organization (NGO) that was entrusted with P25 million in provincial government funds to manage the credit facility for Isabela’s rice farmers.

The project given to the NGO did not undergo public bidding, according to Ombudsman prosecutors. Padaca went to the Supreme Court in 2012 to void the findings of former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

Six years later, the SC’s 2nd Division junked Padaca’s petitions and sided with the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman.

“With the foregoing, the Court concurs with the Sandiganbayan that no grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess in jurisdiction can be attributed to the Ombudsman, as the latter’s finding of probable cause rests on substantial basis,” said the decision penned by Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr, with concurrences from Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

Halfway to a judgment

The Sandiganbayan continued trial while the petition was ongoing at the Supreme Court. The prosecution has finished presenting its evidence, which means the anti-graft court is now halfway reaching a judgment.

The Supreme Court also upheld the Sandiganbayan decision to issue warrants of arrest against Padaca and co-accused Servando Soriano, municipal councilor at the time, and Dionisio Pine, manager of EDWINLFI.

“In sum, there is no cogent reason to disturb the Ombudsman’s finding of probable cause and the Sandiganbayan’s denial of Soriano and Pine’s omnibus motion. The Court cannot and will not nullify the Ombudsman’s factual findings on the sole ground that the complainant does not agree with such findings,” the SC said.

Padaca, former governor of Isabela, was appointed commissioner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) in October 2012 amid the charges. In 2014, former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino did not reappoint her.

The embattled Padaca, who is a Ramon Magsaysay awardee for government service, pleaded guilty in 2017 to 4 counts of ethical breach over non-filing of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) from 2007 to 2010.

Graft and malversation offenses carry jail time penalties, the length of which depend on the court. – Rappler.com