Sandiganbayan chief scolds Andaya over comment on Malampaya scam case
MANILA, Philippines – House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr got on the nerve of another justice as anti-graft court Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang scolded the lawmaker over a statement he made to the media.
“You mentioned your arraignment being nice timing today, what did you mean by that?” Tang asked Andaya on Friday, January 18, sounding miffed.
Tang, who chairs the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, still called Andaya to approach the bench and confront him over the lawmaker’s statement made the night before over the ABS-CBN News Channel.
"Nice timing. That’s very good timing, just when all of these were coming out. I expect it," Andaya said on Thursday, January 17, insinuating that the schedule was related to the budget controversies at the House of Representatives.
The arraignment has long been scheduled – co-accused Ruby Tuason was arraigned way back in February 2018.
Visibly irked, Tang went on to warn other accused in her courtroom “not to attribute anything to the court when you are not satisfied.”
“In resolving cases, the court will never be swayed by external factors like politics. In fact, the court is apolitical. You may disagree with our resolutions, but you have remedies. Please avail of that,” Tang said.
Andaya and the Malampaya case
Andaya crossed hairs with another justice recently, when he announced that the Office of the Ombudsman had launched an investigation into the alleged flood control scam that, he alleged, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno was involved.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires, a retired Supreme Court justice, blasted Andaya and said the statement was “inaccurate” because all his investigator did was inquire into the lawmaker’s speeches referring to the issue.
Andaya served as the budget secretary of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was charged in the Malampaya case for signing the Special Allotment Release Order (SAROs) which the Ombudsman said was “fraught with irregularities constituting badges of fraud."
Former agrarian reform secretary and now Masiu, Lanao del Sur Mayor Nasser Pangandaman allegedly received P75 million from the Malampaya fund scam. Pangandaman pleaded not guilty on Friday.
Pangandaman’s former finance officer, Teresita Panlilio, allegedly received P56.5 million. Panlilio refused to enter a plea, so the court entered a not guilty plea on her behalf.
Former budget undersecretary Narciso Nieto and Angelita Cacananta were also arraigned. Both pleaded not guilty.
The Malampaya fund scam follows the same scheme as the pork barrel scam, facilitated by the same alleged mastermind – Janet Lim Napoles – who is charged in the case alongside children Jo Christine and James Cristopher.
The Napoleses had filed an appeal before the Supreme Court, so their arraignment, and Andaya’s as well, have been rescheduled to February 28.
Jo Christine and James Cristopher attended the hearing on Friday, while Janet cannot be moved out of the Correctional Institute for Women (CIW) without the High Court's permission.
The P900-million scam is a small part of the P38-billion Malampaya funds that had been misused, according to a special report of the Commission on Audit (COA).
The COA has long called for a separate criminal investigation against officials of the DBM for “laxity” in the release of these funds that contributed to the alleged misuse.
The COA report covered the years 2004 to 2012, spanning 4 budget secretaries: the late Emilia Boncodin, Romulo Neri, Andaya, and Butch Abad.
Diokno served as budget secretary under Joseph Estrada until 2001. – Rappler.com