Ombudsman drops graft case vs Lito Lapid

Posted at 09/11/2008 5:20 PM | Updated as of 09/11/2008 5:28 PM

A graft case against Sen. Lito Lapid concerning the alleged overpricing in the purchase of a 40-hectare property of the Pampanga provincial government when he was still provincial governor was dropped by the Office of the Ombudsman's Office of the Special Prosecutor late Wednesday.

The Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) withdrew a graft information against Lapid pursuant to a memorandum signed by Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio and Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez.

The case stemmed from a complaint filed by former Pampanga vice-governor Cielito Macapagal-Salgado alleging that the property acquired by the provincial government for P104 million in 1997 was only worth P5 million.

Macapagal-Salgado said the P5-million valuation of the lot was based on documents submitted by Abelardo Miranda, the original landowner, to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR).
 
In a resolution dated Nov. 26, 2006, the Sandiganbayan First Division ordered a reinvestigation into the case at the request of the two defendants who insisted that the real value of the property was P104 million.

They claimed that Miranda underdeclared the purchase price to evade a higher transfer tax computation.
 
In its 17-page memorandum, the OSP noted that Lapid even requested a joint investigation by the Philippine National Police NP and the National Bureau of Investigation after learning about the undervaluation.
 
At the same time, provincial treasurer Jovito Sabado wrote to Miranda calling his attention to the deficient payment of duties and demanding settlement of the correct amount of transfer tax ‘as early as possible’.
 
On March 2, 1998, Miranda entered into a compromise agreement with the BIR to settle his accountabilities and abate penalties which was approved by then-BIR Commissioner Beethoven Rualo in June 1999.
 
The Ombudsman also gave great weight to the fact that the same property was sold through a public bidding on July 29, 2002 for P143.5 million  to Rightpak International Corporation.
 
“The supervening events and the new evidence extant from the records show that the Province of Pampanga earned a profit of P39.5 million from the sale of the property. The province of Pampanga was even benefitted by the purchase of the subject 40-hectare property…, (which) was not disputed by complainant,” the Ombudsman pointed out.

The graft case was filed when against Lapid when he still headed the province and his co-accused, Enrico Quiambao, was provincial administrator.