Sandiganbayan to proceed with Andaya trial over Malampaya scam
MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Wednesday, March 6, denied the appeal of Camarines Sur 1st District Representative Rolando Andaya Jr to dismiss his graft and malversation charges over the Malampaya fund scam, meaning the court wants to proceed to trial.
The court’s 3rd Division will have to set a new schedule for Andaya’s arraignment which has been repeatedly reset due to the several motions he filed.
"The arguments and defenses of Andaya should be heard by the court at an opportune time, or at the time which they are required to submit their respective pieces of evidence," said the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division in a resolution promulgated on Wednesday.
Andaya is charged with 97 counts each of graft and malversation over the P900-million Malampaya fund scam which happened when he was the budget secretary during the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo presidency.
Ombudsman prosecutors accuse Andaya of approving the request of the Department of Agrarian Reform to release money from the Malampaya fund "despite the lack of any clear basis."
The Commission on Audit also found that most projects approved during Andaya's term had deficiencies, resulting in the misuse of a total of P38 billion from the Malampaya fund.
The Malampaya fund scam resembles the schemes used in the fertilizer and pork barrel scams.
Andaya cited the 1989 Supreme Court (SC) ruling that acquitted an auditor of the Rizal Engineering District, where justices said "there should be other grounds than the mere signature or approval appearing on a voucher to sustain a conspiracy charge and conviction."
"[The SC] held that it is absurd to require all heads of offices to examine the minute details of every single document which comes through his/her desk for approval, and thereafter include them in a conspiracy conviction for their failure to accomplish such an impossible task. [Andaya] points out that he was the head of a much larger office as opposed to the Rizal Engineering District," the court quoted Andaya as saying in his motion.
The Sandiganbayan said it would be premature to decide whether that ruling can apply to Andaya "without a full-blown trial on the merits."
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang, chairperson of the 3rd Division, once scolded Andaya for telling media that his arraignment schedules had "nice timing."
Other defendants have already been arraigned, such as Ruby Tuason and Janet Lim Napoles' children Jo Christine and James Christopher as well as her brothers Reynaldo Lim and Ronald Francisco Lim.
Andaya will be ending his term as representative of the 1st District of Camarines Sur. He is running for governor of the province in the May elections. – Rappler.com