CA clears Ongpin in insider trading raps

MANILA The Court of Appeals (CA) cleared businessman and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin of insider trading charges involving shares of Philex Mining Corp. in 2009.

In a five-page resolution dated July 2 penned by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla, the CA's Special Thirteenth Division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on its December 1, 2017 decision which reversed and set aside the latter's decision issued on July 8, 2016 finding Ongpin liable for insider trading.

The appellate court did not give credence to SEC's insistence that its findings that Ongpin committed insider trading was supported by substantial evidence.

Being a quasi-judicial body, the SEC pointed out that its findings should be conclusive and binding upon the court.

The SEC further claimed that all the elements of insider trading were established during its investigation, thus, Ongpin was properly meted out the penalty of PHP174 million fine for 174 counts of insider trading.

However, the CA agreed with Ongpin's contention that only findings of fact of quasi-judicial agencies are binding upon the court as stated in Section 10, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court.

This Court is therefore not bound by the legal conclusions of the former owing to the inherent duty of courts of law to determine legal issues and settle actual controversies, the CA explained.

The CA noted that the other arguments raised by SEC in its MR are mere rehash of those that have already been discussed and resolved in its December 1, 2017 decision.

This Court is therefore not convinced that a modification of our ruling is warranted,

In its July 2016 decision, Ongpin meted a penalty by the SEC en banc over 174 counts of alleged insider trading involving Philex Mining shares on Dec. 2, 2009.

The Commission ruled that Ongpin benefited and profited from insider or material non-public information. It was learned that the SEC en banc ruling was 10 times higher that the PHP17.4-million penalty suggested by the SEC's Enforcement and Investor Protection Department .

The SEC has stated that Ongpin's purchase of additional Philex shares ahead of a Dec. 1, 2009 deal between the firm and Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd. for the latter's buying into Philex.

The Commission ruled that Ongpin "was able to consolidate the required number of shares, supplementing his block of shares with the shares brought from the open market, sold them to the subsidiary of First Pacific at the privately agreed price of PHP21 per share, thereafter giving the First Pacific group control over Philex."

Source: Philippine News Agency