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SC Slams Door on Prosecution of BSP Officials

11.24.2003

“This denial is final”.

Thus the Supreme Court described its decision on October 8, received by the BSP only recently, dismissing another attempt to try Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Rafael B. Buenaventura and other BSP officials for criminal charges arising from the closure of Urban Bank three years ago.

Acting on a motion for reconsideration filed by lawyer Benjamin F. S. Tabios, the Supreme Court said, “the Court resolved to deny the motion as no substantial arguments were raised to warrant a reconsideration thereof. This denial is final.”

The case stemmed from criminal charges filed by Tabios with the Ombudsman in 2001, claiming perjury, falsification of private documents and offering false evidence to have been committed allegedly by the respondents in closing Urban Bank and its affiliates. The Ombudsman ordered the dismissal of the charges which Tabios appealed all the way to the Supreme Court.

In another case, the Supreme Court on October 13 dismissed a separate petition filed by Teodoro C. Borlongan, former Urban Bank president, directly with the high court to compel the Ombudsman to revive the criminal charges against the BSP officials which the Ombudsman also dismissed previously.

In his petition, Borlongan claimed the Ombudsman committed abuse of discretion in dismissing the charges. Borlongan maintained that the BSP officials committed violations of law when they closed Urban Bank on the basis of reports that he claimed were falsified and untrue.

In dismissing Borlongan’s petition, the Supreme Court upheld the ruling of the Ombudsman and stated that the right to question the action of the BSP officials in closing the bank “belongs only to the stockholders representing the majority of the capital stock of the bank.”

Urban Bank was owned by about 20 stockholders groups. Borlongan owned about 0.60% of the bank.

Borlongan filed a motion for reconsideration which is pending in the high tribunal.

Apart from the criminal charges are administrative charges that were originally resolved also by the Ombudsman but went on appeal to two different divisions of the Court of Appeals.

It was on the basis of the administrative charges elevated to the Court of Appeals by Borlongan that the Fifth Division, in a decision rendered on August 13, ordered the suspension for one year of Governor Buenaventura, Deputy Governor Alberto V. Reyes, and three other BSP officials for “gross neglect of duty.” They filed their motions for reconsideration which are still pending in that division. Consequently, the penalty of suspension is not yet executory.

The Seventeenth Division, on the other hand, promulgated on September 18 a different decision. Acting on an appeal filed by Deputy Governor Reyes and three co-accused who were ordered suspended by the Ombudsman for one month and one day for “simple neglect of duty ,“ the court dismissed the administrative complaint against them. The court even commended them for having “the political will to enforce the law and protect the public interest” by closing the Urban Bank.

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