SC clears Yap in ghost livelihood scam

Daphne Galvez - The Philippine Star
SC clears Yap in ghost livelihood scam
This file photo shows the Supreme Court of the Philippines in Manila.
Philstar.com / EC Toledo

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) has cleared former agriculture chief Arthur Yap of graft and malversation charges over his alleged involvement in a pork barrel scam from 2007 to 2009.

In a 29-page ruling, the SC’s Third Division granted Yap’s petition for certiorari and set aside resolutions of the Sandiganbayan that denied his motion for partial reconsideration with motion to quash information and another motion for reconsideration.

In 2017, Yap was charged with two counts of graft, malversation of public funds and malversation through falsification before the Sandiganbayan over his alleged involvement in the P8-million alleged ghost livelihood projects funded from former Misamis Occidental congresswoman Marina Clarete’s pork barrel.

A memorandum of agreement on the National Agribusiness Corp.’s implementation of Clarete’s project had his signature.

In resolving the case, the SC said the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion when it ruled that the information filed against Yap was enough to charge him.

It said the allegations against Yap “fall short in establishing his culpability, nay, participation in the purported conspiracy to misappropriate Clarete’s PDAF allocations.”

“The absence of crucial averments in the information relating to Yap’s purported malversation of public funds is perceivable even by the naked eye; it was not even established how he could be considered an accountable officer who exercised effective control over the public funds or property suspected to have been appropriated or misappropriated,” the SC decision read.

It also agreed with Yap’s argument that his act of signing the MOA between the DA and Nabcor did not indicate manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence, or that it caused undue injury to the government or gave unwarranted benefits and advantage to his co-accused.

“Indeed, the mere signing of a MOA, which, in itself, does not present any iota of irregularity or illegality, does not prove that a person conspired with her co-accused public officials in violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act No. 3019,” the High Court said.

The high tribunal also gave weight to the argument of the Office of the Solicitor General that the MOA was executed based on a valid issuance by then budget secretary Rolando Andaya Jr.

It said Yap had “no discretion to deny” Clarete’s request to transfer the PDAF allocation as it was covered by the General Appropriations Act that contained the national budget.

The SC also found there was inordinate delay in the proceedings of the Office of the Ombudsman which was tantamount to a violation of Yap’s right to speedy disposition of cases.

The High Court noted that the complaint against Yap was filed in August 2014 while the preliminary investigation of the ombudsman was terminated in August 2017.

“The duration of three years and five months is ineffably beyond the above mentioned periods under Section 3(b) and 3(f) of Rule 112 of the Rules of Court allowing the OMB to conduct its preliminary investigation,” it said.

The SC ruling, promulgated in April but was only made public in May, was written by Associate Justice Japar Dimaampao.

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