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Noy faces graft suit over Shell



screen-shot-2016-09-09-at-20-58-10By Rio N. Araja: September 15, 2016

FORMER President Benigno Aquino III is facing graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly failing to collect P100 billion in taxes from Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp.  for gasoline shipments in 2004 to 2009.

Also charged were ex-Finance secretary Cesar Purisima, PSPC chairman and president Edgar Chua, ex-vice president for communications Robert Kanapi and country tax manager Nigel Avila.

The complainants–ex-Customs commissioner Napoleon Morales, former district collector Juan Tan and Headlines News Today publisher Lourdes Aclan–accused Aquino, Purisima and the other respondents of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and the Tariff and Customs Code.

The complaint was the fifth case filed against Aquino since he left office.

Morales, Tan and Aclan claimed Aquino and Purisima continued to ignore PSPC’s non-payment of the correct taxes for its under-declared gasoline shipments.

“The government is deprived, as it is continuously being deprived, of the huge amount of money, which would have been collected, had they not been remiss in the performance of their official functions,” the complaint read.

Aclan said as early as 2011, she wrote Purisima to inform him of the refusal of then Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon to demand payments from PSPC, but to no avail.

A year later, Aclan said, she sent Aquino a letter to inform him about Purisima’s failure to take the appropriate steps.

Despite his authority over Purisima and Biazon, Aquino ignored Aclan’s letter and never acted on it until he stepped down from office on June 30, 2016, the complaint said.

The first case against Aquino was filed by Erlinda Alaga and Warlito Mejia, parents of P03 Robert Allaga and P02 Ephraim Mejia, respectively, in connection with their deaths in a covert mission on Jan. 25, 2015 to neutralize two terrorists in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

The second case was filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, which filed graft, malversation and usurpation of legislative powers against Aquino, along with former Budget secretary Florencio Abad, for the creation and use of the Disbursement Acceleration Program. 

The third complaint involved homicide charges filed by Julie Faustino Danao, mother of PO2 Walner Danao; Celestino Kiangan, father of PO2 Noble Kiangan, and Felecitas Nacino, mother of PO2 Nicky Nacino.

Another case of multiple counts of homicide–the fourth complaint–was filed by Telly Sumbilla, mother of P03 John Lloyd Sumbilla; Helen Ramacula, mother of P02 Rodel Ramacula, and Lorna Sagonoy, mother of P01 Joseph Sagonoy for the death of their sons during the botched Mamasapano operation.

Earlier, the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, junked the graft case against former National Economic and Development Authority chief Romulo Neri over the alleged overpriced national broadband network (NBN) project with China’s ZTE Corp. in 2007.

In a ruling dated Sept. 9, the anti-graft court’s Special Fifth Division favored the dismissal of the case against Neri in 2010.

In dismissing the graft case against Neri, the Sandiganbayan said it found the prosecution’s evidence “insufficient to sustain the charges or justify a verdict of guilt.”

“The prosecution failed to discharge the burden of proving that accused Neri violated Section 3(h) of the Republic Act 3019 by proof beyond reasonable doubt for its failure to satisfactorily establish that said accused had financial or pecuniary interest, directly or indirectly, in the subject NBN-ZTE deal,” the court said.

Neri was charged with violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for supposedly having financial or pecuniary interest in the project, which required his approval.

Neri was accused of having undue interest in the deal for having conducted a series of meetings with then-Commission on Elections chairperson Benjamin Abalos and ZTE officials from 2006 to 2007 while the government was still considering the broadband project.

But the anti-graft court said Neri’s participation in the project “was rather passive.” The court said Neri was merely consulted by ZTE and Amsterdam Holdings Inc. owned by businessman Jose de Venecia III where he submitted a proposal on the NBN project to the Transportation Department.

“It is common and ordinary experience for people to consult with those who they believe are experts/knowledgeable on matters being inquired about. Abalos and his group, obviously pushing for the ZTE proposal, certainly had reason to believe that Neri, being the Neda director general, was the right person to approach for guidance [or] enlightenment on how they would go about the NBN-ZTE project getting an approval by Neda,” the court said.

The Sandiganbayan said it was not established that Neri met with Abalos and other officials because of a bribe or commissions for the project.

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