Padaca pleads not guilty, allowed to travel

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Commisison on Elections (Comelec) Commissioner Grace Padaca on Tuesday, October 30, pleaded not guilty in connection with graft and malversation charges filed against her before the Sandiganbayan, which also allowed her to travel to the United States to observe the US election.

Padaca has been allowed to travel to Washington DC from November 2 to 12, and was told to pay P140,000 travel bond by the anti-graft court. 

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.

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.

The NGO was entrusted the sum of P25-M which was part of a loan drawn by the provincial government from the Development Bank of the Philippines. This was by virtue of a memorandum of agreement signed in January 2006.

Prosecutors questioned the failure of defendants to conduct a public bidding when the transaction was in the nature of a management or consultancy a contract. They noted the absence of any provision for safeguards on the amount entrusted to the NGO.

In a report issued by the Commission on Audit, government auditors said EDWINLFI failed to liquidate P3.6-M under "due from NGOs/POs" and another P18-M under "loans receivables." -