Ongpin wants graft raps junked

By: Daxim L. Lucas, May 4th, 2013 05:13 AM

Businessman Roberto Ongpin. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—Businessman Roberto Ongpin has asked the courts to dismiss the graft charges against him and 24 current and former officials of the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), reiterating that the loans he obtained from the state-owned bank had been fully paid and, as such, could not be considered behest.

In a press statement, Ongpin’s lawyer said the Sandiganbayan antigraft court had given “due course” to Ongpin’s request, having ordered that a hearing be conducted on May 7 to determine if the government’s charges against him had merit.

In an order dated April 23, 2013, the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division directed the conduct of a public hearing to determine if there was probable cause when the Ombudsman filed an information for two counts of graft against Ongpin and 24 codefendants, including former DBP president and CEO Reynaldo David.

Ongpin’s counsel Alex Poblador said the public hearing would “thoroughly ventilate before the general public the contentious issues in the case.”

The Ombudsman earlier filed graft charges against Ongpin and the DBP officials because of two allegedly behest loans totaling P660 million that the DBP had extended to an Ongpin company in 2009.

The funds were used to acquire the Philex Mining Corp. shares of the DBP, which were then sold to businessman Manuel Pangilinan, who ended up controlling the country’s largest gold and copper mining firm. Having made a quick profit, Ongpin then repaid the loan to the DBP ahead of its maturity.

The government and Ongpin’s critics allege that the DBP management at the time had approved the loan in haste.

Ongpin insisted that at the transaction was aboveboard and had earned hefty profits for the bank.

“Those two loans can never be considered behest as they have been paid with interest well before their maturity,” Poblador said.

Ongpin’s lawyer added that the funds borrowed from the DBP constituted only 17 percent of the total financing that his client had raised since 2007 to accumulate his Philex holdings. With a report from Miguel R. Camus

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