Court junks Disini graft case

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, citing lack of jurisdiction, dismissed on Friday, June 21, a graft case against businessman Herminio T. Disini and 5 co-defendants.

Government lawyers may still revive the case, however. The dismissal was without prejudice to re-filing in a court with the proper jurisdiction.

In the 5-page ruling signed by Associate Justices Gregory Ong, Alex Quiroz, and Maria Cristina Cornejo, the graft court held that it has no jurisdiction over the case because all the defendants named are private individuals.

The Sandiganbayan is a special court with exclusive jurisidction on cases involving high ranking public officials, although private defendants may be tried if they are charged as co-principal, accomplice, or acessory to the criminal offense.

“In the case at bar, it is undeniable that the individuals charged in the information are all private individuals who have not been charged therein with any public officer or employee either as the latter’s co-principal, accomplice or accessory,” the court declared.

It added that the case should have been filed before the appropriate regional trial court.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed the case last April 1, alleging that Disini and his co-accused induced the late President Ferdinand Marcos to commit corruption when they offered him assets worth P65 million in 1982.

Prosecutors claimed Marcos was tempted into amassing ill-gotten wealth amounting to P65 million in the form of shares in two companies controlled by Disini’s firm, Herdis Management and Investment Corporation.

Marcos allegedly acquired 4 billion shares in The Energy Corporation worth P40 million, and 2.5 billion shares in Vulcan Industrial and Mining Corporation, with a total value of P25 million in March 1982.

Indicted along with Disini were Herdis Board Directors Angelo V. Manahan, Dominico O. Borja, Jerry Orlina, Alfredo M. Velayo, and Jesus Disini, who was also his cousin.

Even while it can be argued that Disini is a known close associate of Marcos, the court noted that the investigation was initiated not by the Presidential Commission on Good Government, which would have allowed the Sandiganbayan to assume jurisidction. –