Six bank execs face prosecution for estafa

Posted at 06/20/10 5:25 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Six bank executives face prosecution after the Court of Appeals (CA) upheld a Department of Justice (DoJ) order to sanction them for making false representations in acquiring a P389.8 million loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP).

In a 20-page decision penned by Associate Justice Ruben Ayson, the CA’s 8th Division denied the petition for certiorari filed by Rodolfo Buenaventura, Librada Dio, Nilda Fajardo, Lelaine Fernandez, Benjamin Cruz and lawyer Ligaya Cruz - all officers of Hermosa Savings and Loans Bank, Inc. (HSLBI), seeking the nullification of the resolution issued by former Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales on January 4, 2005.

Gonzalez, found probable cause to indict the six HSLBI’s officers for 40 counts of estafa in connection with the 40 loans they secured from the DBP in various occasions from 1994 to 2000.

“The Court finds that the findings of the investigating state prosecutors were based on the evidence presented by both parties and were arrived at after a thorough review thereof. This is pursuant to their power to direct and control criminal prosecutions and to conduct preliminary investigations,” the appellate court said.

The CA stressed that there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Justice Secretary in issuing the assailed resolution.

“The fact that several resolutions of the DOJ were subjected to several motions or reconsideration by the petitioners before the assailed resolution by the DOJ, through Secretary Gonzales, the Court believes that the case went through thorough review to determine which case or cases are to be filed in court,” the CA added.

Court records showed that HSLBI availed of 40 loans from the DBP  from February 2, 1994 to November 29, 2000, which hit an aggregate amount of P389,809,867.

A regular examination of HSLBI’s loan portfolio in March 2001, conducted by the Department of Thrift Bank and Non-Bank Financial Institutions of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP-DTBNBFI), discovered tampering and alterations on the various loan documents submitted by the bank.

DBP conducted its own investigation to validate and verify the findings of the BSP-DTBNBFI, and found that 40 of the 50 credit accounts were attended by fraudulent acts.

This prompted DBP to file a criminal complaint before the DOJ against the HSLBI officers for estafa.

The bank executives, however, denied the charges and said they were not party to the loan transaction nor were they involved in the preparation of the documents related to the said loans.

They said they were not aware of the said documents and never approved or verified them. They claimed  that their signatures appearing on the documents were forged and they did not benefit from the loans.

On November 18, 2002, DOJ state prosecutors Maria Regina Tordilla-Castillo and Melvin Abad issued a joint resolution which found probable cause to indict the petitioners for 40 counts of estafa.