They are accused of approving more than 500 anomalous loans worth over P290 million

Rappler file photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan junked motions to dismiss a case against 3 officials of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and a property developer, paving the way for a corruption trial over the alleged anomalous approval of more than 500 applications for housing loans in 2001.

The 544 applications totaled around P293.16 million.

GSIS-Tarlac Division Chief 3 Celestino Cabalitasan, property appraiser Maria Victoria Leonardo, senior general insurance specialist Jerry Balagtas, and private defendant Jose de Guzman’s motion to dismiss the case against them was rejected by the Sandiganbayan’s 7th Division, which is composed of Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo, Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, and Zaldy Trespeses.

In a resolution dated March 20, the 7th Division rejected their argument stating the case must be thrown out because the Supreme Court (SC) had earlier dismissed the two graft cases against another co-accused, former GSIS-Tarlac Field Office branch manager Amado Inocentes, due to unreasonable delay in the filing of the case.

Inocentes had argued that the delay violated his right to speedy disposition of the case.

The Sandiganbayan noted that only Inocentes was covered by the SC ruling and had been the only one who invoked his right to the speedy disposition of the case.

The anti-graft court ruled that the 3 waived their same right when they waited for the ruling on Inocentes’ case before invoking it for themselves.

The 3 GSIS officials, alongside Inocentes, were charged with conspiracy to defraud the government in processing and approving 491 loan applications by De Guzman under the GSIS Bahay Ko Program.

Allegedly, none of those who availed themselves of the loans were qualified because they were not within the jurisdiction of the GSIS Tarlac Office.

Another case involves the approval of 53 loans, this time for another project of De Guzman. That project is also allegedly anomalous because the property was for commercial purposes, not residential. The land was also apparently over-appraised.

The complaint was filed in 2004, after the questionable transactions were revealed because of the computerization of GSIS files. The 3 did not invoke their right to speedy disposition of the case even if the charges were only filed in 2012.

"When the Sandigabayan acquired jurisdiction over these cases, the accused movants remained complacent on the matter. Only now, when Inocentes has finally obtained a favorable decision, did accused movants belatedly invoke this right that they have complacently sat on for so long," said the 7th Division. –