THE Sandiganbayan has given Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico the chance to prove his claim that he did not sign fraudulent documents pertaining to a graft case filed against him last year.
Suplico was accused of allowing the transfer of P14.7 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocations to a bogus non-government organization (NGO) identified by prosecutors as AARON Foundation Philippines Inc.
Graft investigators said the NGO was operating without a valid business permit and had a “dubious existence,” noting that the office address given turned out to be a vacant lot in Gagalangin in Tondo, Manila being used by the Maynilad Water Services Inc. to store its equipment.
Charged together with Suplico were former Technology and Livelihood Resource Center director general Antonio Y. Ortiz, and private defendant Alfredo A. Ronquillo of AARON Foundation Philippines, Inc.
Suplico and Ortiz reportedly picked AARON to implement “livelihood and development projects” in the fifth congressional district of Iloilo province and given control over the P14.7 million PDAF without going through the required public bidding.
Suplico, however, challenged the authenticity of the Ombudsman’s evidence, saying he never signed any of the papers submitted as proof in the graft charge.
He claimed that his supposed signatures on the documents were “forgeries and superimposed through a copy and paste technology of a word processing program.”
In a resolution dated Oct. 14, 2019, the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division granted Suplico’s motion asking that the assailed documents be submitted to forensic examination by the National Bureau of Investigation.
The court ordered the issuance of a subpoena duces tecum to prosecution witness Lolita Soriano, supervising administrative officer of the Commission on Audit’s Special Audit Office, directing her to submit to court original copies of the questioned documents.
On the other hand, the NBI’s Questioned Documents Division was ordered to scrutinize the documents and submit a report to the court.
However, the anti-graft court clarified that before the NBI’s examination, the original documents must be photocopied and parties must stipulate on the faithful reproductions.
The certified true copies will be used in the trial while the originals are not available.
Suplico was ordered to submit at least eight public or private documents bearing his signature dated within three months immediately before or after the execution of the PDAF documents. These will be used for the NBI examination.
Likewise, the Fifth Division invoked the Supreme Court ruling in the 2011 case of Marquez vs. Sandiganbayan stating that “any finding of the NBI will not be binding on the graft court” but is subject to its independent evaluation.