Supreme Court of the Philippines

In PDAF scam, SC affirms arrest warrants vs budget official who has fled

Lian Buan

Rappler illustration

Ex-budget undersecretary Mario Relampagos fled in 2018, saying there's 'no end in sight' to around 300 counts of pork barrel-related charges against him

The Supreme Court affirmed the arrest warrants of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan against graft defendants in the pork barrel scam, but the primary respondent there has fled the country three years ago.

The warrants affirmed are for former Department of Budget and Management (DBM) undersecretary Mario Relampagos, who jumped bail while in the United States in 2018, telling his lawyers that “there seems to be no end in sight anymore for his ordeal.”

“The Sandiganbayan’s finding of probable cause prevails over petitioners’ one-sided and self-serving allegations of grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan. Wherefore, the petition is dismissed,” said the Supreme Court Second Division in a decision dated January 27 but uploaded only recently.

This case, related to the pork barrel of former Davao del Sur representative Douglas Cagas, is just one of the 300 counts of pork barrel scam-related cases that Relampagos is facing at the anti-graft court.

Relampagos is a co-accused in pork barrel scam cases of former senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada, and Juan Ponce Enrile, where the former undersecretary was found to have signed 42 documents ordering the release of over P1 billion to fake nongovernmental organizations or NGOs.

He was found by the Ombudsman to have played the same role in other cases like in Cagas’ case.

Relampagos was ordered arrested in April 2017, after which he and other respondents filed an appeal with the Supreme Court in the same year.

The cases of graft and malversation are bailable, but Relampagos told his lawyers he could no longer afford to post bail for the hundreds of cases.

“The Court finds that the factual and legal issues raised by petitioners are evidentiary matters and matters of defense that may be passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits,” said the Supreme Court.

“Certainly, there is no evidence that the Sandiganbayan abused or acted in capricious and whimsical exercise of judgment amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in finding probable cause for the issuance of warrants of arrest against all petitioners,” said the Supreme Court.

The other respondents are Rosario Salamida Nuñez, Lalaine Narag Paule, and Marilou Dialino Bare. – 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.