SC stops anti-graft court from hearing graft case vs ex-Iloilo governor Tupas Sr.

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
Inquirer Visayas

7:09 pm | Sunday, June 5th, 2011


ILOILO CITY,Philippines—The Supreme Court has temporarily barred the Sandiganbayan from hearing a graft case against former Iloilo Governor Niel Tupas.

In a resolution dated May 30, the high court’s second division issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) directing the Sandiganbayan’s First Division to suspend hearing the criminal charges against the former governor and several others related to alleged irregularities in the issuance of a quarry permit during the construction of the P8-billion Iloilo airport.

The court said in its resolution that the TRO would be in effect until the resolution of two pending petitions for certiorari filed separately by Tupas and his co-accused against the resolutions of the Ombudsman indicting them of violations of the Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act).

The court also directed the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman to comment on the petitions for certiorari within 10 days after the receipt of the order.

On April 15, 2010, the Ombudsman issued a resolution finding probable cause against Tupas for alleged administrative and criminal liabilities in issuing an Industrial Sand and Gravel (Isag) permit to a quarrying firm involved in the construction of theIloiloairport. Also found liable were six others including five members of the Montesclaros family.

It said the governor acted in bad faith when he approved the sand and gravel quarrying application of businessman Melvin Requinto on Sept. 8, 2004, even if Requinto’s business failed to meet technical requirements and operational experience including the operation of a crushing and screening plant.

The Ombudsman added that one of the quarrying firm’s stockholders and directors, Marianito Montesclaros, was the father of the governor’s daughter in-law, Binky April Montesclaros-Tupas. She is married to the governor’s son Raul.

The Ombudsman ordered Tupas’ dismissal from government service but said that it was unenforceable because of his re-election into office in May 2007. The anti-graft body, however, proceeded with the criminal charges against the accused.

The resolution was affirmed on March 2 by then Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, which paved the way for the filing of cases before the Sandiganbayan.

Tupas questioned the Ombudsman resolution saying that the validity of the quarry permit was already affirmed in a civil case resolved by the Iloilo Regional Trial Court.

The former governor also questioned the March 2 resolution affirming his indictment, saying it was released at the height of the House impeachment proceedings against former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

The proceeding was chaired by his son Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., who chaired the House committee on justice.