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Graft court: Arrest Tupas

THE Sandiganbayan   on Monday   ordered the arrest of former Iloilo Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. for graft over alleged questionable payment to  a private firm for the provincial government’s unconsummated electricity of P4 million.

Also ordered arrested were  former  provincial accountant Lyd Tupas, former-assistant department head of the office of the provincial accountant Sandra Bionat and former-general services department chief Ramie Salcedo.

“After a careful assessment of the records, the documents and other evidence submitted together with the information of the above-entitled case, the Court finds the existence of probable cause and so orders the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the accused,” the court’s decision read.

The anti-graft court’s Fifth Division directed the Bureau of Immigration to prevent Tupas and his co-accused from leaving the country.

“This Court, in the exercise of its inherent power to use all means necessary to carry its orders into effect, more specifically, to preserve and maintain the effectiveness of its jurisdiction over the case and the persons of the accused. Hereby orders the Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration to hold the departure from the Philippines of the above-named accused and to include the names of the said accused in the Hold Departure List of the said Bureau.”

Tupas earlier filed a motion to defer his arrest, to no avail.

Government prosecutors have been given five days to comment on Tupas’ motion for deferment, according to Fifth Division’s clerk of court, Ma. Teresa Pabulayan.

On Sept. 15, the Office of the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict Tupas, Lyd Tupas, Bionat and Salcedo for graft for violating Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Tupas and his co-accused were accused of using their positions in “conspiring with one another” to give “unwarranted benefit, advantage and preference” to Green Core Geothermal Inc. by approving the release of P4,007,111.91 to the company from December 2009 to April 2010.

The case stemmed from a 2007 contract between the Iloilo government and the National Power Corp.. which was later assumed by NPC’s successor Green Core, for the bulk supply of electricity from Sept. 26, 2007 to Dec. 25, 2011 to facilitate the construction of the Iloilo multipurpose convention center.

Even if the construction of the convention center did not push through, Tupas made payment to paid Greencore P5.88 million for the billing period of December 2009 to April 2010.

The Ombudsman said the actual electricity consumption of the province only amounted to P1.88 million.

“This is to certify that a preliminary investigation has been conducted in this case, that there is a sufficient ground to engender a well-founded belief that the crime charged has been committed, and that the accused are probably guilty thereof,” the Ombudsman’s complaint read.

Tupas Sr. is the father of incumbent Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.

In a joint motion, Tupas Sr. and his three other co-accused through their lawyers Joenar Pueblo urged the Sandiganbayan to cite the Ombudsman’s field investigators for contempt for allegedly bypassing the authority of the Court of Appeals by elevating the case to the Sandiganbayan without waiting for the CA to resolve their pending motion for certiorari.

“Such legal strategy aside from being unfair and uncalled for was intended purely to emasculate the power and authority of the Honorable Court of Appeals 3rd Division,” their motion read.

“The actuation of the Office of the Ombudsman clearly has for its intention to render the case moot and academic and to assure that the decision of the Honorable Court of Appeals becomes inutile.”

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