'Ongpin's charges vs Espenilla an act of persecution'

Posted at 01/11/13 12:00 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Roberto V. Ongpin's charges against a central bank official is only meant to shift the blame after the businessman's bank accounts were frozen, a lawyer of the accused said in a statement.

"The press statements and the filing of criminal charges last January 4 by Mr. Ongpin against [Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Nestor] Espenilla totally disregard the fact that the whole issue arose from the filing of criminal complaints by the Development Bank of the Philippines with the Ombudsman against Mr. Ongpin and other DBP officials," Augusto A. San Pedro, Jr., Espenilla's lawyer, said.

Ongpin filed a graft complaint against Espenilla before the Ombudsman on Thursday after the latter, as an acting Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) chairman, signed a freeze order on the former's bank accounts.

Earlier, Ongpin and other DBP officials were slapped with criminal charges in connection with "behest loans" approved and granted to companies affiliated with Ongpin, with the proceeds used to buy Philex Mining Corp. shares owned by the state-run bank.

San Pedro explained that after the Ombudsman found indications of violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the matter was referred to the Anti-Money Laundering Council for immediate action.

This led to the Court of Appeals also finding probable cause to freeze the subjects' bank accounts as violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act is a predicate crime under the law governing money laundering.

San Pedro stressed the AMLC Resolution, despite being signed by Espenilla as acting chairman during that time, was a product of a "collegial body" and cannot be attributed to the central bank official as a personal action.

"Therefore, the filing of charges against Deputy Governor Espenilla can at best, be viewed as an act of persecution," San Pedro said.

"Furthermore, Mr. Ongpin in singling out Deputy Governor Espenilla as behind the freezing of his accounts insults the Ombudsman, the AMLC, the Office of the Solicitor General and the Court of Appeals, the institutions that decide on matters such as this."