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Marcos-era minister cleared of graft over behest loans

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Former economic planning minister Gerardo Sicat has been cleared of graft charges concerning behest loans granted to a mining company when he was still a board member of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) under the regime of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Under the two counts of graft filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), Sicat is accused of giving loans to Hercules Minerals and Oilc Inc. (HMOI) from 1981 to 1982 amounting to $8.6 million which was allegedly disadvantageous to the government.

In its resolution, the Sandiganbayan Special 3rd Division agreed with his motion to quash which argued that the prescriptive 10-year period within which a case should have been filed.

“Due to the extinguishment of the criminal liability of the accused-movant by virtue of prescription, the court sees no practical need to further discuss his allegation that he was deprived of his right to substantiative and procedural due process on the ground of the alleged lack of preliminary investigation of these cases with the Office of the Ombudsman,” ruled the court.

It cited the Presidential Ad Hoc Fact-Finding Committee made its report on Behest Loans entitled “Executive Summary” on April 4, 1994 and submitted it to the office of then President Fidel Ramos on April 11, 1994.

However, the court said the PCGG only filed its complaint Dec.15, 2004 which was well beyond the prescriptive period under the law.