Joel Reyes wants graft charges dismissed

MANILA, Philippines – Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes filed a motion for reconsideration before Sandiganbayan seeking to reverse the anti-graft court's resolution to put him on trial over his alleged involvement in the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.

In his motion to the Fifth Division, filed on December 27, Reyes said there was no evidence that he directly endorsed the non-government organization (NGO) Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation (MAMFI) as the conduit for a project with the Department of Agriculture (DA) Region 4.

Reyes is accused of misusing P3.25 million in funds meant to purchase farm inputs. An investigation showed the project was given to MAMFI without undergoing public bidding.

MAMFI is among the fake NGOs said to belong to Janet Lim-Napoles, alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam.

Reyes claimed that the only thing implicating him is the testimony of DA Region 4 executive director Dennis Araullo, who said some officials, including Reyes, favored MAMFI as project implementor.

Reyes, in his motion, said Araullo's testimony is hearsay and covered by a court rule stating that the admission of one party is not admissible against his co-accused.

Reyes also invoked a circular from the Commission of Audit defining the roles of agencies and offices in the release of funds to NGOs. He said it defined "beneficiary" as the "the community or any of its sectors which is the recipient of the results of the development efforts of the Government Office (GO) and the NGO." Following that definition, Reyes said, the provincial government of Palawan was the beneficiary and as governor "there was no need, much less oppportunity to make an endorsement."

A part of the evidence against Reyes was a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by him declaring MAMFI as the conduit. Reyes argued that the MOA clearly stated that DA, as the procuring entity, has already earmarked funds for Palawan and that he was just being a "responsible local executive who could not pass an opportunity to help his constituents."

He argued that he merely “relied on Araullo’s representations on the propriety of the MOA and its compliance with the pertinent rules” and therefore is not guilty of bad faith, partiality and gross negligence.

Reyes appealed that the charges against him be dismissed for lack of probable cause.

Aside from the graft case, Reyes is facing charges for the murder of broadcast journalist Gerry Ortega. (READ: SC: Murder trial of Palawan ex-governor can proceed) – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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