MANILA (Mabuhay) – Election commissioner Grace Padaca on Wednesday denied challenging the independence of the Sandiganbayan in reiterating her supposed immunity from suit, being a presidential appointee, in her appeal to dismiss the graft case she is facing.
The Sandiganbayan Third Division has junked her motion for reconsideration to dismiss the graft charges filed against her.
The case stemmed from the P25-million grant to the Economic Development for Western Isabela and Northern Luzon Foundation, Inc. Padaca, a former governor of Isabela, was accused of allegedly giving undue advantage to the non-governmental organization (NGO) tapped to manage a credit facility for Isabela’s rice farmers under a hybrid seed distribution program.
In decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Hernandez, the court said it would require an unprecedented stretch and bending of the law to utilize her appointment as a cause to dismiss or suspend the ongoing court proceedings.
“To sustain the motion of the accused undermines independence and the exercise of judicial authority of the Court on account of an intervening executive act; this violates the fundamental principle of separation of powers,” it added.
In her motion for reconsideration, Padaca cited her immunity from suit, as a presidential appointee, for the dismissal of the case.
President Benigno Aquino III appointed her to the Commission on Elections on October 2, 2012 when, her lawyers claimed, she came under the protection of Sections 2 and 3, Article 11 of the 1987 Constitution which gave the House of Representatives the exclusive power to impeach her.
“This (motion for reconsideration) is not a challenge as to the independence of any branch of government, but this is a fundamental issue which appears to be unresolved and is still unclear, that is why we feel that the matter should be threshed out fully,” Padaca said.
Sandiganbayan, in an October 9, 2013 resolution, earlier junked Padaca’s claim that she cannot be indicted unless she is removed by impeachment.
The anti-graft court said, at that time, that immunity does not apply to Padaca because the criminal charges were filed even before she got appointed to the Comelec. The court also said granting Padaca immunity could lead to an “abuse of political power of appointment” to insulate public officials from liability.
Padaca said she has every intention and is ready to clear her name in the appropriate forum.
She said she has already collated all material evidence which will highlight her innocence. At least 300 exhibits have been marked for Padaca’s defense while several others are scheduled to be marked.
“Despite the pendency of any petition we may file in the Supreme Court, I have asked my lawyers to continue preparing/presenting my evidence before the Sandiganbayan and unless the Supreme Court rules otherwise, I am eager to have my side heard in trial,” said Padaca. (MNS)