By Elizabeth Marcelo (philstar.com) | Updated December 27, 2016 - 8:20am
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Devanadera was also Justice secretary to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. File
MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman maintains that there are sufficient grounds to try former Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera for graft over her supposed participation in an allegedly anomalous P6.1-billion settlement deal with a private firm in 2006.
In a 14-page opposition paper filed before the Sandiganbayan's First Division, state prosecutors urged the court to deny “for utter lack of merit” Devandera's motion for judicial determination of probable cause with a prayer to dismiss the case.
“Both the resolution and the order of the Office of the Ombudsman extensively discussed the presence of probable cause against the accused-movant. The role she played in signing and giving her imprimatur in the execution of the Compromise Agreement in giving unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference to Radstock, which cause undue injury to the government, was clearly spelled out,” the ombudsman's opposition paper read.
“Accused-movant was a knowing participant in the Compromise Agreement which the Supreme Court invalidated,” it added.
Filed by the ombudsman on November 25, the graft case against Devanadera and 18 other individuals concerns a compromise deal that the Philippine National Construction Corporation, a government-owned and controlled corporation, entered into with Radstock Securities Limited, successor-in-interest of Marubeni Corp.
Devanadera was, at that time, acting as the legal counsel of PNCC, as she was a public lawyer under the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).
The subject of the compromise agreement was a P13.15-billion collection suit filed by Radstock against PNCC then pending before the Court of Appeals.
In the compromise agreement signed on August 17, 2006, the PNCC acknowledged that it has liability to Radstock amounting to P6.185 billion.
To pay for the purported liability, the PNCC agreed to transfer to 19 government-owned real properties to Radstock.
The PNCC also agreed to transfer to Radstock 20 percent of its common shares as well as to assign to the latter half of its six percent shares in the gross toll revenue of the Manila North Tollways Corporation for the next 27 years — from 2008 to 2035.
The Joint Motion for Judgement Based on the Compromise Agreement was eventually granted by the CA in 2007, but the appellate court's ruling was overturned by the Supreme Court in December 2009.
The ombudsman said the compromise agreement was unlawful as PNCC “had no power to compromise the settlement amount” and to assign toll fees to private entities.
The ombudsman further said the PNCC cannot just transfer government-owned real properties to Radstock in the absence of public bidding and without compliance with existing property transfer laws.
In her motion, Devanadera maintained that she had no participation in the negotiation for the compromise deal.
Devanadera claimed that on the contrary, she aired her reservations about the compromise agreement through several letters to PNCC.
The ombudsman dismissed Devanadera's claim as baseless.
It pointed out that her mere signature in the compromise agreement is already “clear proof” that she advised and assisted PNCC in the execution of the deal.
“If she had reservations in the validity of the provisions of the compromise, she should not have advised the PNCC to execute the same and she should not have signed the compromise agreement,” the prosecutors from the ombudsman said.