Ex-solon plea to prove forgery in plunder, graft cases okayed

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    THE Sandiganbayan has given the green light to the request of former party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez to subject documentary evidence submitted by the prosecution against him to forensic examination by the PNP National Crime Laboratory Office (PNP-NCLO) for falsification and forgery.

    In a resolution dated January 31, 2020 penned by Associate Justice Maria Theresa V. Mendoza Arcega, the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division ordered Commission on Audit (COA) supervising administrative officer Lolita Soriano to submit seven documents identified by Valdez to the PNP Crime Lab to undergo handwriting examination.

    Valdez was likewise told to submit at least eight different public documents he signed within three months before or after the papers to be turned in by the COA official were supposedly signed by him. The documents will serve as specimen signatures and references for the PNP Crime Lab examiners.

    The Sandiganbayan gave the PNP-NCLO three months to come up with a finding counting from its receipt of all the necessary documents.

    Valdez’s counsel has earlier submitted two copies each of letters of endorsements and memoranda of agreement to the PNP-NCLO which found that the supposed signatures of Valdez were written by different persons.

    For additional comparisons, the defense team likewise asked for examination of four other letters of endorsement in years 2007 and 2008 submitted to the Department of Agriculture as well as three different memoranda of agreements signed between the Technology and Livelihood Resource Center (TLRC) and the Napoles NGOs.

    The court noted that prosecution star witness Benhur Luy, the whistleblower for the P10 billion PDAF scam, has openly admitted that the signatures in the documents were forged.

    “Prudence dictates that the same be officially examined by an expert in order to ferret out the truth,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    It added: “Due to the gravity of the accusations against the accused, we deem it best to have the foregoing documents examined by the experts. More so, herein accused-movant repeatedly interposed the defense of forgery.”

    Valdez was charged in 2015 with one count of plunder and seven counts of graft.

    Prosecutors said that as former congressman for party-list Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives (PL-APEC), he received P57,787,500 as “commissions and kickbacks” for funneling his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations into bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) created by businesswoman Janet Napoles who has been convicted of a separate plunder charge.

    The NGOs were identified as the Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI), Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI), and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI).

    Valdez has denied any part in the PDAF scam and said he never signed any of the documents submitted during trial in support of the allegations leveled against him.