Sandiganbayan to proceed with ex-DA chief’s trial

MANILA -- The Sandiganbayan has found probable cause to proceed with the trial of former Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary, now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap in connection with the alleged misuse of a PHP14.55-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, in 2007.

In a nine-page resolution promulgated last Nov. 28, the Sandiganbayan's 6th Division denied the motion for judicial determination of probable cause filed by Yap for lack of merit.

"Accused Yap argues that the information in the present cases must be dismissed or quashed for lack of probable cause. The court disagrees," the Sandiganbayan resolution written by Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez said.

Yap, as co-accused in the case of former Nueva Ecija 4th District Rep. Rodolfo Antonino, is facing two counts each of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and malversation of public funds.

In the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan, Antonino unilaterally chose Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation, Inc. (BMMKFI) as "project partner" in implementing livelihood projects for barangays in the 4th District of Nueva Ecija.

The BMMKFI was supposedly operated by Antonino.

The Ombudsman said that the implementation disregarded the appropriation law and its implementing rules and without public bidding as required under government procurement rules.

It added that National Agribusiness Corp.'s Alan Javellana entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with the BMMKFI on the implementation of the PDAF-funded project.

The Ombudsman said then DA chief Yap also signed an MOA with Javellana and allegedly conspired with other private individuals.

In his motion, Yap argued that he should not be charged with the offense, since he was only acting as a representative of DA, had no participation in the selection of the BMMKFI, and the implementation of the PDAF-funded project, and that he did not receive a single centavo from the PDAF.

The Sandiganbayan said it found sufficient evidence to hold Yap and his co-accused for trial after a careful study of the evidence.

"The court finds that sufficient grounds exist for the finding of probable cause for the purpose of issuing warrants of arrest against the accused," it said.

Yap and Antonino have already posted their respective bail bonds of PHP140,000 each, hence, the Sandiganbayan will no longer issue them warrants of arrest.

Likewise ordered arrested were Javellana, Rhodora Mendoza, Encarnita Munsod, Maria Ninez Guanizo, and private individuals Marilou Antonio and Carmelita Barredo.

Source: Philippine News Agency