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MANILA, Philippines – The $2-milliion civil forfeiture case against former justice secretary Hernani “Nani” Perez will proceed at the Sandiganbayan after the anti-graft court junked Perez’ motion to dismiss the civil charges.
In a resolution issued by the Special Third Division, the court denied Perez’ motion to dismiss which was anchored on the respondents’ claim to his right to speedy disposition of cases.
The civil forfeiture case was filed in 2014. Perez argued that the Ombudsman’s field investigation office filed the complaint for forfeiture as early as 2005, therefore taking them 9 years to file charges.
The Sandiganbayan ruled that although the preliminary inquiry remained pending before the Office of the Ombudsman for 9 years, “there is no showing that such delay was deliberately employed by the said office in order to hamper or prejudice the defense of the respondents.”
The civil forfeiture case stemmed from allegations that Perez did not disclose in his assets statements in 2001 and 2002 that he transferred at least $1.7 million worth of funds from his account to the accounts of his wife Rosario Perez, his brother-in-law Ramon Arceo Jr, and his business associate Ernest Escaler.
The original complaint was that Perez extorted $2 million from former Manila representative Mark Jimenez in 2001 in exchange for the approval of a controversial $470-million power plant deal. Perez was on trial for 4 criminal charges over the allegations, but in May 2014, the Sandiganbayan cleared him of all charges.
Six months after, in November 2014, the Ombudsman filed a civil forfeiture case seeking to seize from him the alleged ill-gotten $2 million. Their basis for the forfeiture case was the undisclosed transfer of funds to different accounts.
The extortion allegation against Perez was one of the most high-profile cases filed during the term of former ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, an Arroyo appointee and a former subordinate of Perez at the Department of Justice. The dismissal of charges against Perez was said to have been due to a defective complaint filed by Gutierrez. (READ: Ombudsman ‘blunder’ may cost the plunder charges?)
Apart from the motion to dismiss, Perez had also filed several motions that sought to stop the proceedings, all of which were denied by the Sandiganbayan in its latest resolution, allowing the case to continue. – Rappler.com