Anti-graft court's Top 10 cases involve billions of pesos

MANILA, Philippines – The plunder and graft cases filed before the Ombudsman against the 3 senators implicated in the controversial pork barrel scam involve what appear to be among the highest amounts in terms of ill-gotten money in the country's history.

Of the three, the cases against Senator Ramon Revilla Jr involve the highest amounts (a total of P517 million or $11.87 million for graft, and P224 million or $5.14 million for plunder), followed by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile (P345 million or $7.92 million for graft, P172 million or $3.95 million for plunder) and Senator Jinggoy Estrada (P278 million or $6.38 million for graft, P183 million or $4.2 million for plunder).

However high these figures may be, they still aren't the highest figures in the history of the anti-graft court. The Sandiganbayan database shows that from 1979 to 2013, there are 7 cases that involve amounts higher than those in Revilla's graft charge.

Here's a list of 10 cases that involve the highest amounts ever handled by the Sandiganbayan, as reflected in the anti-graft court's database.

1. P4.098 billion ($94.05 million) – plunder case vs former president Joseph Estrada and 7 others

The plunder case filed in 2001 against Estrada involves the highest amount handled by the anti-graft court so far. The case, filed after he was ousted in 2000, involves his acceptance of proceeds from the illegal numbers game jueteng and his ownership of huge amounts of money in a bank account under the name Jose Velarde.

Estrada was convicted in September 2007, and was detained until he was granted presidential pardon a month later. The Sandiganbayan's 2013 compliance report says he still owes the government over P400 million, roughly US$9 million. (READ: No closure yet on Erap Estrada’s plunder case

Incidentally, his son Jinggoy is among those implicated in this case, but he was acquitted (along with Edward Serapio) in 2007. (READ: How Jinggoy got away in his first plunder charge)

2. P818 million ($18.77 million) – graft case vs officials of Philippine Export and Foreign Loan Guarantee Corporation (Philguarantee) and two others

Philguarantee executive vice-president Cesar Macuja, vice chairman Rosendo Bondoc, Ronaldo Zamora (personal lawyer of former president Ferdinand Marcos) and Vicente Chuidan were charged in 1993 for violating section 3(a) of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Section 3(a) of the said law states that it is unlawful for public officials to "[persuade, induce or influence] another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations duly promulgated by competent authority or an offense in connection with the official duties of the latter, or allowing himself to be persuaded, induced, or influenced to commit such violation or offense."

Chuidian was allegedly a dummy of the Marcoses in several companies, and was said to have influenced the Philguarantee officers to facilitate the procurement and issuance of a loan guarantee in favor of the Asian Reliability Company Incorporated (ARCI) – which was 98% owned by Chuidian. Philguarantee is a government-owned entity created by former president Ferdinand Marcos in 1974 to guarantee loans for promoting businesses in the Philippines.

This case was dismissed in 1998.

3. P694 million ($15.93 million) – graft case vs National Sugar Trading Corporation (NASUTRA) offficials

NASUTRA officials Roberto Benedicto (chairman of the board), Jose Unson (executive vice president), and Jaime Dacanay (vice president) were charged with violation of section 3(e) of RA 3019 for importing raw sugar without prior authority.

Section 3(e) of the said law states that it is unlawful for public officials to "[cause] any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions."

The illegal sugar importation was said to have "[forced] local sugar prices to go down and coerce/compel sugar producers or traders to restore sugar trading and control back to NASUTRA and thus enabling the accused NASUTRA officers to rake in millions of pesos in profit and commission from sugar trading along to the damage and prejudice of the government and the public interest."

The case was dismissed in 1997.

4. P685 million ($15.72 million) – graft case vs judiciary employees and 4 others

Manila RTC deputy register of deeds Yolanda Alfonso, branch clerk of court Raymundo Vallega, and 4 private individuals were charged in 1994 for violating section 3(e) of the anti-graft law.

No other information is easily available about this case, except for what the Sandiganbayan database indicate: that the case was "transferred to other court" in 1995.

5. P660 million ($15.15 million) – graft case vs Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) officials

GSIS vice president/comptroller Richard Martinez and chief executive officer Amado Epino were charged in 2000 for violating section 3(e) of RA 3019.

Like the previous case, no other information is available except that it was withdrawn by the Office of the Special Prosecutor in 2001.

6. P533 million ($12.23 million) – 2003 graft case vs Public Estates Authority (PEA) officials and 6 state auditors

In 2003, 20 PEA officials and some state auditors from the Commission on Audit (COA) were charged with violation of section 3(e) of RA 3019 in relation to the overpriced Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard.

It was revealed by former PEA board director Sulficio Tagud that the project was overpriced, and that all requests by contractor JD Legaspi Construction for price adjustment were approved by the PEA board. Based on the Sandiganbayan database, the case remains pending.

7. P520 million ($11.93 million) – graft case vs former trade minister Roberto Ongpin, former Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas chief Jaime Laya, and former Philguarantee president Rosendo Bondoc

A graft case was filed in 1995 against Ongpin, Laya and Bondoc for violating section 3(e) of RA 3019 after they allegedly conspired in the approval of a big loan of the Construction and Development Corporation of the Philippines.

The case against Ongpin was dismissed in 2003, while the case against Bondoc was dismissed in 2004. As for Laya, his case was dismissed also in 2004 after the Sandiganbayan upheld the immunity granted to him by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

8. P511 million ($11.73 million) – graft case vs former Philippine National Bank (PNB) vice president Domingo Ingco Sr and two others

Ingco, along with top officials of Cresta Monte Shipping Corporation, was charged in 1993 with violation of sections e and g of RA 3019 for conspiring to have the company's loan applications approved even without some of the necessary requirements satisfied.

Violation of section g of the law refers to "entering, on behalf of the Government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby."

The case was dismissed in 1997.

9. P432 million ($9.91 million) – graft case vs. Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) officials

DBP chairman Rafael Sison and executive vice president Jose Tengco Jr were charged in 2011 for violation of section 3(e) of RA 3019.

No other information is easily available, except that the case remains pending.

Sison was acquitted by the anti-graft court for a separate graft case in 2012 for extending a loan guarantee to a company that has allegedly not provided sufficient collateral.

10. P400 million ($9.18 million) – graft case vs Gregorio Araneta III (son-in-law of former president Marcos) and 8 others

A graft case was filed in 1986 after the supposed transfer of a major portion of the assets of the Pantranco North Express Inc (PNEI) to the North Express Transport Inc (NETI), a newly-organized corporation principally owned and controlled by Araneta.

An investigation reportedly show that there were certain terms and conditions that made it possible to permit PNEI assets, including those which were not included in a projected sale to NETI, to be prematurely delivered to NETI.

Those charged with violation of RA 3019 were Araneta and officials of the Philippine National Bank (PNB), National Investment and Development Corporation (NIDC), and PNEI. The case against Araneta and 4 others were dismissed, while the 4 others were acquitted.

Other big cases

The plunder case filed in 2012 against former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and 9 others placed 12th in the list, as it invoves P365 million ($8.38 million). The case is in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) intelligence funds during the latter years of Arroyo's administration. (READ: Arroyo, 9 others charged with plunder

The case was filed a week before President Benigno Aquino III delivered his State of the Nation Address (SONA) that same year.

Meanwhile, the case filed in 2005 against former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia ranks 15th with P303 million ($6.95 million). Garcia, his wife and 3 children were charged for illegal accumulation of wealth.

The Office of the Ombudsman entered in February 2010 into a plea bargain agreement with Garcia. The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order on the plea bargain deal in 2013. (READ: SC stops Garcia plea bargain deal– Rappler.com

($1=P43.57)