Sandiganbayan junks 83 tax credit scam cases; slams inaction of gov’t prosecutors

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    THE Sandiganbayan has thrown out 83 counts of graft charges involving P100 million in fraudulent tax certificates issued to private businessmen, citing failure by prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman to pursue the case.

    In a 15-page resolution issued last July 6, the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division ordered all cases dismissed against Faustino and Winston Chingkoe, private defendants in Criminal Case Nos. 27654 to 27736 that were filed way back in 2000 during the time of Ombudsman Aniano Desierto.

    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the resolution with Associate Justices Alex L. Quiroz and Bayahi H. Jacinto concurring.

    Despite the 20-year pendency, the cases have not seen a single day of trial.

    In dismissing the cases against the two traders, the Sandiganbayan noted that even the simple matter of amending the original information has not been pursued by the prosecution since it filed the request on June 6, 2008 during the time of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

    Based on the original information, officials of the Department of Finance One-Stop Shop Tax Credit and Duty Drawback Center (DOF-Center) headed by former DOF assistant secretary Antonio Belicena and Center deputy executive director Uldarico Andutan Jr. unlawfully approved the issuance of tax credit certificates (TCCs) worth millions to Diamond Knitting Industries Inc. supposedly owned by the defendants in 1995.

    Investigators said the textile firm could not have qualified for the TCCs since it had ceased operations two years earlier in February 1993 because of a closure order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) for violating anti-pollution regulations

    From the very beginning, the cases were plagued with defects.

    For starters, there was no company named Diamond Knitting Industries Inc. in existence.

    It took the prosecution eight years to make a move to correct the error when it filed a motion to admit amended informations (sic) dated June 6, 2008. It asked to be given the chance to insert the correct name of the textile company “Diamond Knitting Corporation.”

    After the other parties submitted their opposition and comments, the cases slept again for the next 11 years. It was only on October 25, 2019 that the prosecution filed the proposed amended information.

    Predictably, the defendants protested, demanding that the cases be dismissed due to delays.

    “The Court agrees with the accused that the inaction of the plaintiff, not only in pursuing the resolution of its 2008 motion but also in the prosecution of these cases against the accused, violates their Constitutional right to speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases,” the Sandiganbayan said.

    It said that government prosecutors failed to offer any justification for their inaction over the passage of so many years.

    “Accused were not remiss in asserting their right to speedy trial and speedy disposition of cases. The prosecution provided no explanation and/or enough reason to warrant the delay in the proceedings,” the court said.

    Associate Justice Lorifel Lacap Pahimna penned the resolution with Associate Justices Alex L. Quiroz and Bayahi H. Jacinto concurring.