MANILA, Philippines—Fourteen former officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines, led by chairperson Patricia Sto. Tomas, have asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss two graft charges filed against them by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged “behest” loans granted in 2009 to Delta Ventures Resources Inc. (DVRI), a firm owned by businessman Roberto Ongpin.
In separate replies to the government’s opposition before the antigraft court’s Third Division, the accused claimed lack of probable cause against them, saying the prosecution erred when it declared the P660-million credit line extended to Delta Ventures as “behest” loans.
The Ombudsman filed the charges on Jan. 10.
Included in the pleadings were former DBP directors Alexander R. Magno, Ramon R. Durano IV, Renato S. Velasco and Franklin M. Velarde; senior executive vice presidents Edgardo F. Garcia, Rolando S.C. Geronimo and Armando O. Samia; executive vice president Benedicto Ernesto R. Bitonio Jr.; BBS manager Arturo C. Baliton; senior assistant vice president Perla S. Soleta; RMC manager Marissa S. Cayetano; RMC assistant manager Warren P. de Guzman; vice president Ma. Teresita S. Tolentino; senior vice president Crescenciana R. Bundoc; and chief accounts management specialist RMC-WL Nelson P. Macatlang.
Covered by collateral
All accused said that of the amount, only P150 million was an actual loan covered by collateral in the form Philweb Corporation shares with a market value of P303 million for a 200 percent credit cover at the time when the loam was approved on May 18, 2009.
Both DVRI and Philweb are companies controlled by Ongpin, a former trade minister during the administration of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
They said the credit line application was actually filed in January 2009, not April, as stated in the findings of the Ombudsman and was granted within a month.
According to them, the first collateral offered by DVRI, a 49-hectare orchard located in Benguet, was declined by the bank’s Branch Banking Sector (BBS) and Regional Marketing Center-West Luzon (RMC-WL), prompting Ongpin’s group to amend its application by offering the Philweb shares instead.
The P150 million was paid in full by DVRI on Dec. 8, 2009 with a total interest of P7 million in just six months.
They also said that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas conducted an examination of the transaction for alleged violations of banking laws but did not find any wrongdoing.
“The BSP eventually issued its corresponding Report of Examination dated Jan. 25, 2012, that did not sustain any of the many so-called violations,” the defendants said.
While the BSP report did cite that “DBP’s quality of equity trading risk management is weak,” the defense said the remark was not directed at the grant of DVRI’s credit facility per se but covered several other transactions, including investments in Philex Mining Corp. shares, Lehman Brothers credit line-linked notes and Metro Rail Transit Corp.
As to the supposed second behest loan, the former DBP officers said it was not a loan at all but a “share purchase transaction” worth P637.5 million which was unrelated to the earlier P150-million loan.