By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Sixth Division has warned several witnesses in the case against former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Proceso Alcala to cooperate with court proceedings, and answer their subpoenas lest they face the court’s ire.
In the subpoena duces tecum dated June 7, Isa Akong Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (IAMFI) President Laureano Arnulfo Mañalac, Corporate Secretary Marian Martina Mañalac, Corporate Financial Officer Marian Louise Mañalac, and Auditor Eleanor Mañalac were all commanded to appear before the Sandiganbayan on June 19 in order to testify.
But when the day came, the IAMFI President refused to testify on the ground that the violation of his right against self-crimination will be violated. He added that the other Mañalacs are not related to the IAMFI, so there was no basis for presenting them as witnesses against him.
The other witnesses failed to appear. They filed a manifestation and motion with apology, explaining that they were absent during the June 19 hearing because of the medical condition of Marian Louise.
However, the prosecution said that the kidney transplant of Marian Louise was done on June 6, so their reasoning had no justification. The prosecution likewise found it “flimsy” that the movants were able to attend the board meeting of IAMFI shortly after the kidney transplant – specifically, on June 18.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court said there was no basis for Mañalac’s argument that the persons named in the subpoena were no longer affiliated with IAMFI. On the other hand, the court found merit in his reason that the subpoena will violate his right against self-incrimination.
As a result, his motion was granted and his subpoena has been ordered quashed. As for the motion filed by the other Mañalacs, the court merely noted it with a warning.
“Movants Marian Martina Mañalac, Marian Louise Mañalac, and Eleanor Mañalac are reminded that persons who fail to obey a subpoena without adequate cause shall be held in contempt of court,” the resolution written by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez read.
It was concurred by Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.
Mañalac was accused alongside Alcala of violating Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for accrediting IAMFI on September 27, 2012, as a development partner of the DA.
They submitted together with its application for accreditation an unauthorized Articles of Incorporation and concealed the fact that Mañalac was actually an incorporator of the foundation, which was considered highly irregular since it was in violation of the Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 2007-001.
After the foundation was accredited, they even entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with it and released the amount of P13.5 million to the foundation.
They were faulted for failing to investigate the grant of public funds to the foundation since it was not entitled to it, therefore causing damage and prejudice to the government.