MANILA, Philippines—Businessman Roberto Ongpin pleaded not guilty at his conditional arraignment at the Sandiganbayan on Wednesday to graft charges in connection with P660 million in alleged behest loans that his Deltaventures Resources Inc. (DVRI) obtained from the Development Bank of the Philipines (DBP) in 2009.
However, Ongpin’s decision to submit himself to arraignment should not be considered as waiver of his motion to quash the graft charges filed by the Office of the Ombudsman, said the businessman’s lawyer Alex Poblador.
Ongpin, who was allowed to post bail of P80,000, refused to be interviewed after the arraignment.
Ongpin asked the antigraft court to recall a hold-departure order it had issued against him and submitted a motion to leave for travel abroad to attend business meetings from Feb. 24 to March 25, 2013.
He said he was scheduled leave for France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, the Netherlands and Hong Kong.
The court ordered Ongpin’s lawyers to submit a manifestation detailing Ongpin’s actual itinerary with specific dates and the places where he will be staying while abroad. It is scheduled to act on the request Thursday.
Ongpin and two of his executives—Josephine Manalo, DVRI president, and Ma. Lourdes Torres, treasurer of Goldenmedia Corp. (GMC)—were the private coaccused in the graft cases that the Ombudsman filed against 25 former officials of the DBP in connection with the P660-million loans.
The complaint described the loans to Ongpin as “behest,” alleging that they were granted with extraordinary speed, were undercollateralized and that the borrower, DVRI, was undercapitalized.
Ongpin, it was also alleged, was a crony of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband, which supposedly explains the supposed rush to approve the loan.–Cynthia D. Balana