Roberto Ongpin
Photo: Rappler

MANILA — The Court of Appeals (CA) cleared businessman and former trade minister Roberto Ongpin of insider trading charges involving shares of Philex Mining Corp. in 2009.

In a five-page resolution dated July 2, 2018 and written by Associate Justice Ma. Luisa Quijano-Padilla, the CA’s Special Thirteenth Division denied the motion for reconsideration filed by the Enforcement and Investor Protection Department of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in connection with its December 1, 2017 decision which reversed and set aside SEC’s ruling issued on July 8, 2016 finding Ongpin liable for insider trading.

The appellate court did not give credence to SEC’s claim that its findings that Ongpin committed insider trading was supported by substantial evidence.

Being a quasi-judicial body, the SEC argued that its findings should be conclusive and binding upon the court.

The SEC further claimed that all the elements of insider trading were established during its investigation, thus Ongpin was properly meted out the penalty of P174 million fine for 174 counts of insider trading.

However, the CA agreed with Ongpin’s contention that only “findings of fact” of quasi-judicial agencies are binding upon the court as stated in Section 10, Rule 43 of the Rules of Court.

“This Court is, therefore, not bound by the legal conclusions of the former owing to the inherent duty of courts of law to determine legal issues and settle actual controversies,” the CA explained.

The CA noted that the other arguments raised by SEC in its MR “are mere rehash” of those that have already been discussed and resolved in its December 1, 2017 decision.

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“This Court is, therefore, not convinced that a modification of our ruling is warranted.”

In its July 2016 decision, Ongpin was meted a penalty by the SEC en banc for 174 counts of alleged insider trading involving Philex Mining shares on Dec. 2, 2009.

The commission ruled that Ongpin benefited and profited from insider or material non-public information. It was learned that the fine in SEC en banc ruling was 10 times higher than the P17.4-million penalty suggested by the SEC’s Enforcement and Investor Protection Department.