MANILA — The anti-graft court on Monday ordered the arrest of former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and three of his co-accused for graft charges in connection to the alleged anomalous payment of a private company for unconsumed electricity worth Php4 million.
“After a careful assessment of the records, the documents and other evidence submitted together with the information of the above-entitled case, the Court finds the existence of probable cause and so orders the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the accused,” the court said in a minute resolution dated September 14, released only to media on Monday.
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has also directed the Bureau of Immigration to place Tupas Sr. and his co-accused under the Bureau’s Hold Departure List to prevent them from leaving the country.
“This Court, in the exercise of its inherent power to use all means necessary to carry its orders into effect, more specifically, to preserve and maintain the effectiveness of its jurisdiction over the case and the persons of the accused…Hereby orders the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration to hold the departure from the Philippines of the above-named accused and to include the names of the said accused in the Hold Departure List of the said Bureau,” the court said in a separate resolution.
The Office of the Ombudsman said in their complaint submitted to Sandiganbayan on September 9, that Tupas Sr., Iloilo provincial accountant Lyd Tupas, assistant department head of the office of the provincial accountant Sandra Bionat, and general services department head Ramie Salcedo, were charged with violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The Ombudsman, in its complaint said Tupas and the other respondents has used their respective positions in “conspiring with one another” to give “unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” to the private company Green Core Geothermal, Inc. by approving the release of a total of Php4,007,111.91 to the company between the period of December 2009 to April 2010.
The payment made to Green Core was for the supposed electricity supply from September 26, 2007 to December 25, 2011, to facilitate the construction of the Iloilo Multi-Purpose Convention Center.
The Ombudsman said that while the construction of the convention center did not push through, the provincial government still paid Green Core a total of Php5.88 million for the billing period of December 2009 to April 2010 even when the actual electricity consumption of the province for that period only amounted to Php1.88 million. Tupas Sr. is the father of incumbent Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.
In a joint motion submitted to the court Tuesday last week, Tupas Sr. and his three co-accused moved for the deferment of the issuance of the arrest warrant against them saying that they still have a pending motion for certiorari with the Third Division of the Court of Appeals, asking for a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Ombudsman’s filing of the case before the Sandiganbayan.
“On September 2, 2015, the Court of Appeals 3rd Division issued a resolution ordering the Office of the Ombudsman to comment on the petition, however, what the Office of the Ombudsman did as a high-handed legal strategy akin to a rapiers thrust was to immediately file the information against the petitioners for the intention of making the TRO prayer moot and academic,” Tupas Sr. and the other respondents said.
The petitioners pointed out that a positive resolution on their petition for certiorari would mean the withdrawal of the case before the Sandiganbayan, thus, it would be proper to await the appellate court’s ruling first to protect the state from “expensive trials”.
“That petitioners/accused implore the Honorable 5th Division to give them reasonable time to be heard by the Court of Appeals so that they be able to protect themselves from an open and public accusation of a crime, from the trouble, expense and anxiety of a public trial and also to protect the state from useless and expensive trials,” the respondents said.
Fifth Division clerk of court, lawyer Ma. Teresa Pabulayan said that as of the moment, there is no order from the court to recall the arrest warrant issued against the accused but the prosecution was given five days to comment on the respondents’ motion to defer their arrest.