MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Grace Padaca should be prosecuted for graft and malversation, notwithstanding her appointment to the poll body.
“To dismiss or suspend the case would give premium to criminality and undermine the criminal justice system,” prosecution director Omar L. Sagadal argued.
Padaca was accused of giving undue advantage — when she was Isabela governor — to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation Inc. (EDWINLFI), a non-government organization tapped to manage a credit facility for Isabela’s rice farmers under a hybrid seed distribution program.
Prosecutors said the disbursement bypassed the provincial council because there was no ratification of the memorandum of agreement with the foundation.
Named Padaca’s co-accused were provincial legal officer Johnas Lamonera, former Roxas Vice Mayor Servando Soriano and private respondent Dionisio Pine, manager of EDWINLFI.
Graft is punishable by up to 10 years imprisonment while malversation of public funds over P22,000 is penalized by a maximum jail term of 40 years.
On October 31, Padaca’s counsels from the ACCRA law firm sought the immediate dismissal of the case against her. They argued that her appointment gave her immunity from court cases, and that the only way to remove her was through impeachment.
Defense lawyers Oliver L. Pantaleon, Stephen George S.D. Aquino, Francesca Lourdes M. Senga and Johanna Aleria P. Lorenzo had asked that the proceedings in the graft and malversation case be suspended if the impeachment case pushes through, and until the impeachment trial is terminated.
Previously, Padaca had pleaded not guilty in connection with the charges. The former Isabela governor posted bail on October 4, two days after she was named Comelec commissioner. She was ordered arrested as early as May 2012.
Her lawyers earlier argued, “Clearly if the cases before this Honorable Courth proceed, and accused Padaca is convicted of one or both of the crimes charged, she will be removed from her position as Commissioner of the Comelec [and disqualified from holding public office] without going through the impeachment process. This will clearly run counter to the Constitution and settled jurisprudence.” – Rappler.com