‘Ghost’ phones case
Former Iloilo Rep. Judy Syjuco pleaded not guilty on Wednesday in her malversation through falsification and graft charges over the alleged ghost purchase of 1,582 units of Nokia 1100 cell phones in 2004.
Syjuco attended her arraignment at the Sandiganbayan Third Division accompanied by her husband, Augusto Syjuco, former chief of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda).
“Not guilty,” Syjuco told the court after her charges were read out to her.
The court set the preliminary conferences throughout the month of June and scheduled the pre-trial on Aug. 1.
Syjuco was arraigned pending her motion to suspend proceedings following the Sandiganbayan Third Division’s finding of probable cause to try her for the criminal charges.
The former lawmaker said her cases should be suspended too after the Sandiganbayan ordered the Ombudsman in a March 1 resolution to conduct its preliminary investigation on co-accused Jonathan Ng, owner of West Island Beverages Distributor (West Island) and the alleged favored supplier of the ghost cell phones.
Syjuco said her trial should be suspended too, especially because Ng’s participation in the alleged crime is vital in the charges against her.
Syjuco was accused of causing undue injury to the government in procuring the ghost cell phones without public bidding and of malversing public funds. On the other hand, Ng was accused of receiving P5,964,859.09 as payment despite the ghost deliveries of the said cell phones.
Syjuco said that if the Ombudsman could find no probable cause against Ng, his “absolution… fatally undermines the Informations” against her too.
“Consequently, the outcome of the preliminary investigation concerning accused Ng can affect the charges against accused Syjuco,” Syjuco’s lawyers said.
“If the Office of the Ombudsman determines that there is no probable cause to hold Ng liable… then the informations against Syjuco can no longer stand.”
Syjuco said it was only a “matter of logic” that the court proceedings be suspended pending the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation on Ng.
In a Feb. 27 resolution, the Third Division said it found probable cause to try Syjuco; Domingo Reyes Jr., chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC); Elmer Soneja, BAC vice chairman; and BAC members Director Rebecca Cacatian, Director Ildefonso Patdu Jr., Legal Officer Geronimo Quintos and Director Venancio Santidad, DOTC Inspector Marcelo Desiderio Jr., DOTC Technical Inspector Danilo Dela Rosa, storekeeper Antonio Cruz, and Ng.
“The Court finds substantial basis to support the finding of probable cause in these cases and the consequent issuance of warrants of arrest against the accused-movants and their co-accused and to hold them for trial,” the court said.