Ongpin's lawyer says freeze order is baseless

Posted at 12/08/2012 3:26 PM | Updated as of 12/09/2012 5:59 PM

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals has reportedly frozen about 100 accounts owned or linked to former Trade Minister Roberto Ongpin amid allegations he got behest loans from the Development Bank of the Philippines during the Arroyo administration.

But Ongpin's lawyer Rodolfo Ponferrada said the action is baseless.

The freeze was reported exclusively by Reuters, citing the court-issued freeze order, which was granted on the request of the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

AMLC Executive Director Vicente Aquino didn't immediately respond to a text message seeking his confirmation or comment.

According to Reuters, the December 6 freeze order covers about 100 accounts in 20 banks and financial institutions for 20 days, after which the AMLC can seek a 6-month extension.

While Reuters did not provide more details, Ongpin's lawyer did.

In his statement, Ponferrada said the P412 million of stock trading gains Ongpin allegedly made to the disadvantage of DBP is "speculative." That indicates the freeze is meant to help confiscate the money Ongpin allegedly made by borrowing from DBP, to buy Philex Mining shares owned by DBP, which he soon sold to Philex Chairman Manuel Panglinan for a P412 million profit.

Senator Sergio Osmena and others alleged that because Ongpin was on DBP's and Philex's board, and because of the quick timing, the transaction amounts to "insider trading" or a "short-swing profit," which are both illegal.

Ponferrada said Ongpin will file a motion to lift the freeze order on Monday. He also said Ongpin will help the 13 former and current DBP officials the Sandiganbayan sacked earlier last week for their participation in approving the loans Ongpin used to buy the Philex shares.