Paulino clarifies: Graft raps only ‘resurrected’

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Chairman Rolen Paulino Sr. has clarified that the graft case against him and several Olongapo City officials before the Sandiganbayan has just been revived after being dismissed three years ago.

Paulino issued the statement in reaction to a BusinessMirror story that the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him and 15 Olongapo City officials after finding probable violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In a news statement sent to the media on Friday, Paulino reiterated that the case involving the construction of Gordon College and the SM Central mall in Olongapo has been dismissed three years ago.

“It merely resurrected (sic) when a third motion for reconsideration from the prosecution was granted,” the statement read.

“It is unfortunate that an educational institution such as Gordon College and SM Central, a solid vehicle in molding today’s youth, and undeniably a commercial and economic boon to the community respectively, are being capitalized (sic) to advance the political agenda of certain personalities,” it quoted Paulino as saying.

Paulino was then Olongapo mayor when graft charges were filed against him and other city officials in connection with the construction of a mall and commercial center on government property.

The Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division earlier found no sufficient grounds for a probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest against the Paulino and his co-accused and dismissed the charges filed against them.

But the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division ordered the arrest of Paulino and his co-accused last July 12 after it granted the prosecution’s motion for reconsideration and set aside the April 1, 2022 resolution from the Sandiganbayan’s Seventh Division.

In his media statement, Paulino also said the resurrected case “is obviously politically motivated and has absolutely nothing to do with my current role as chairman and administrator of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority.”

An audio recording obtained by BusinessMirror, however, clearly showed Paulino telling SBMA employees during a flag-raising ceremony otherwise.

In the recording, the SBMA chief said: “I think this…has something to do with my confirmation as SBMA chairman. S’yempre, o, hindi pwedeng maging chairman ‘yan, may kaso ‘yan (Of course, they would say: he cannot be chairman because he has pending case).”

“Pero na-dismiss na ‘to, ibinalik lang muli (But the case has already been dismissed. It was just revived),” he added.