CASE 2017-0018 – REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING COUNCIL, VS. JOCELYN I. BOLANTE, OWEN VINCENT D. BOLANTE, MA. CAROL D. BOLANTE, ALEJO LAMERA, CARMEN LAMERA, EDNA CONSTANTINO, ARIEL C. PANGANIBAN, KATHERINE G. BOMBEO, SAMUEL S. BOMBEO, MOLUGAN FOUNDATION, SAMUEL G. BOMBEO, JR., AND NATIONAL LIVELIHOODDEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (FORMERLY LIVELIHOOD CORPORATION), (G.R. NO. 186717 17 APRIL 2017., SERENO, CJ.:) REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES, REPRESENTED BY THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING COUNCIL, VS. HON. WINLOVE M. DUMAY AS, PRESIDING JUDGE OF BRANCH 59,REGIONAL TRIAL COURT IN MAKATI CITY, JOCELYN I. BOLANTE, ARIEL C. PANGANIBAN, DONNIE RAY G. PANGANIBAN, EAR WALTER G. PANGANIBAN, DARRYL G. PANGANIBAN, GAVINA G. PANGANIBAN, JAYPEE G. PANGANIBAN, SAMUEL S. BOMBEO, KA THERINE G. BOMBEO, SAMUEL G. BOMBEO, JR., NATIONAL LIVELIHOOD DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION (FORMERLY LIVELIHOOD CORPORATION), MOLUGAN FOUNDATION, ASSEMBLY OF GRACIOUS SAMARITANS FOUNDATION, INC., ONE ACCORD CHRISTIAN COMMUNITY ENDEAVOR FOR SALVATION & SUCCESS THROUGH POVERTY ALLEVIATION, INC., SOCIETY’S MULTI-PURPOSE FOUNDATION, INC., ALLIANCE FOR THE CONSERVATION OF ENVIRONMENT OF PANGASINAN, INC., AND STA. LUCIA EDUCATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF BU LA CAN, INC. ), (G.R. NO. 190357 17 APRIL 2017., SERENO, CJ.:) (SUBJECT/S: HOW DO COURTS TREAT SENATE REPORTS) (BRIEF TITLE: REPUBLIC VS. BOLANTE ET AL.)

                            

DISPOSITIVE:

 

WHEREFORE, the petition in G.R. No. 186717 is DENIED. The Court of Appeals Resolution dated 27 February 2009 in CA-G.R. AMLC No. 00024 is AFFIRMED.

 

The petition in G.R. No. 190357 is DISMISSED. The Resolution dated 3 July 2009 and Order dated 13 November 2009 issued by the Regional Trial Court of Makati, Branch 59, in AMLC Case No. 07-001 are AFFIRMED. The Status Quo Ante Order issued by this Court on 25 March 2009 is hereby LIFTED.

 

SO ORDERED.”

 

 SUBJECTS/DOCTRINES/DIGEST:

 

WHAT WAS THE BASIS FOR THE APPLICATION FOR THE ISSUANCE OF A BANK INQUIRY ORDER?

 

TWO PIECES OF EVIDENCE: SENATE COMMITTEE REPORT NO. 54 AND THE TESTIMONY OF WITNESS THELMA ESPINA.

 

“We find no reason to conclude that the R TC determined the existence of probable cause, or lack thereof, in an arbitrary and whimsical manner.

 

To repeat, the application for the issuance of a bank inquiry order was supported by only two pieces of evidence: Senate Committee Report No. 54 and the testimony of witness Thelma Espina.

 

HOW DO THE COURT TREAT REPORTS OF THE SENATE?

 

REPORTS OF THE SENATE STAND ON THE SAME LEVEL AS OTHER PIECES OF EVIDENCE SUBMITTED BY THE PARTIES.

 

“We have had occasion to rule that reports of the Senate stand on the same level as other pieces of evidence submitted by the parties, and that the facts and arguments presented therein should undergo the same level of judicial scrutiny and analysis.101 As courts have the discretion to accept or reject them, 102 no grave error can be ascribed to the RTC for rejecting and refusing to give probative value to Senate Committee Report No. 54.

 

At any rate, Senate Committee Report No. 54 only provided the AMLC with a description of the alleged unlawful activity, which is the fertilizer fund scam. It also named the alleged mastermind of the scam, who was respondent Bolante. The entire case of the AMLC, however, hinged on the following excerpt of Senate Committee Report No. 54:

 

But Undersecretary Bolante’s power over the agriculture department was widely known. And it encompasses more than what the Administrative Code provided.

 

In fact, at the time that he was Undersecretary, Jocelyn Bolante was concurrently appointed by the President in other powerful positions: as Acting Chairman of the National Irrigation Administration, as Acting Chairman of the Livelihood Corporation xx x.103 (Emphasis supplied)

 

It was this excerpt that led the AMLC to connect the fertilizer fund scam to the suspicious transaction reports earlier submitted to it by PNB.”

 

WHAT DID THE RTC FOUND?

 

BOLANTE HAD CEASED TO BE A MEMBER OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF LIVECOR FOR 14 MONTHS BEFORE THE LATTER EVEN MADE THE INITIAL TRANSACTION, WHICH WAS THE SUBJECT OF THE SUSPICIOUS TRANSACTION REPORTS.

 

ALSO, BASED ON THE AUDIT REPORT SUBMITTED BY THE COMMISSION ON AUDIT, NO PART OF THE P728 MILLION FERTILIZER FUND WAS EVER RELEASED TO LIVECOR.

 

“However, the R TC found during trial that respondent Bolante had ceased to be a member of the board of trustees of LIVECOR for 14 months before the latter even made the initial transaction, which was the subject of the suspicious transaction reports. Furthermore, the RTC took note that according to the Audit Report submitted by the Commission on Audit, no part of the P728 million fertilizer fund was ever released to LIVECOR.

 

We note that in the RTC Order dated 17 November 2006 in AMLC SP Case No. 06-003, the AMLC was already allowed ex parte to inquire into and examine the six bank deposits or investments and the related web of accounts of LIVECOR, Molugan, AGS, Samuel S. Bombeo and Ariel Panganiban. With the resources available to the AMLC, coupled with a bank inquiry order granted 15 months before Eugenio was even pro mu I gated, the AMLC should have been able to obtain more evidence establishing a more substantive link tying Bolante and the fertilizer fund scam to LIVECOR. It did not help that the AMLC failed to include in its application for a bank inquiry order in AMLC SP Case No. 06-003 LIVECOR’s PNB account as indicated in the suspicious transaction reports. This PNB account was included only in the application for a bank inquiry order in AMLC Case No. 07-001.

 

As it stands, the evidence relied upon by the AMLC in 2006 was still the same evidence it used to apply for a bank inquiry order in 2008. Regrettably, this evidence proved to be insufficient when weighed against that presented by the respondents, who were given notice and the opportunity to contest the issuance of the bank inquiry order pursuant to Eugenio. In fine, the RTC did not commit grave abuse of discretion in denying the application.”

  

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SCD-2017-0018-REPUBLIC VS JOCELYN I. BOLANTE ET AL, G.R. NO. 186421, 17 APRIL 2017

 

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