2016 was a record year for the Office of the Ombudsman because it filed 1,250 cases at the Sandiganbayan, the highest since 1995.
The Ombudsman filed 482 cases in 2011, the year former Supre,e Court justice Conchita Carpio Morales was appointed to head the office. The number fell to 395 in 2012 and rose to 969 in 2013. It fell again to 452 in 2014 and 357 in 2015.
The last time that the number of filed cases reached more than a thousand was in 1995, when the Ombudsman lodged 1,329 cases before the anti-graft court.
In 1981, the Ombudsman filed 2,661 cases, the highest since the Sandiganbayan began operations in 1979.
The Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over cases involving offenses allegedly committed by government officials.
Under Republic Act No. 8249, it has exclusive jurisdiction over, among others, graft and plunder cases; cases of alleged violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; cases of alleged violation the Heinous Crime Law; cases of alleged violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act; cases of forfeiture of alleged illegally acquired wealth, and; crimes such as direct bribery, indirect bribery, qualified bribery, and corruption of public officials.
The court started with only one division. Now it has seven.
Among the prominent cases filed by the Ombudsman in 2016 are the graft and malversation charges against Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino “Ruffy” Biazon as well as former representatives Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro, Arrel Olaño of Davao del Norte, Marc Douglas Cagas 4th of Davao del Sur, Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato and several others in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel scam.
It also filed graft, malversation, and falsification charges against former Vice President Jejomar Binay, former Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr., and several others in connection with the alleged anomalous construction of the Makati City Hall parking building. The court’s Third Division has yet to rule on whether there is basis to proceed to trial or none.
In March, the Ombudsman filed graft charges against former Pangasinan Governor and now Rep. Amado Espino Jr. and several others for allegedly authorizing two unqualified firms to extract black sand in Lingayen Gulf in 2011.
In May, the office filed a graft case against former Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima and several others in connection with the allegedly anomalous courier deal with Werfast Documentation Agency, Inc. in 2011.
A malversation case was also filed against former Batangas Governor Jose Antonio Leviste in connection with cash advances that he allegedly failed to liquidate in 2003 when he was Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Philippine Retirement Authority.
But the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division later dismissed the case, saying that Leviste “was not the public officer who had the custody of such public fund and was therefore not accountable for them, and could therefore not have misappropriated them.”
The Ombudsman also filed graft and malversation charges against former Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Chairman and now Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay and several others in connection with LWUA’s alleged anomalous acquisition of the Express Savings Bank Inc. (ESBI) in 2009.
The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division found probable cause to try the graft charges. But it dismissed the case filed against two former LWUA officials as well as Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian, who was a former executive of the Wellex Group Inc., one of the firms that had owned ESBI.
In September, the Ombudsman filed a graft case against former Palawan Governor Mario Joel Reyes and four others in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of liquid fertilizers in 2004.
The office also filed graft and malversation charges against Games and Amusement Board Chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra and several others over the alleged anomalous transfer of fertilizer fund in the amount of P3 million in 2004 when he was a congressional representative of Palawan.
It also filed a graft case against former Commission on Elections Chaiman Benjamin Abalos Sr. over the alleged procurement of two vehicles in the amount of P1.7 million without public bidding in 2003.
Abalos had asked the court’s Sixth Division to dismiss the case, alleging that the Ombudsman violated his right to swift trial when the latter supposedly took eight years to finish its investigation.
In October, the Ombudsman filed graft charges as well as a case of reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and physical injuries against Valenzuela Mayor Rexlon Gatchalian and several others for allegedly allowing Kentex Manufacturing Corporation to continue operating with “inadequate” fire safety measures.
In December, the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division dismissed the cases for lack of probable cause.
In November, the Ombudsman filed a graft complaint against former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 General Manager
Al Vitangcol 3rd and Wilson De Vera over the alleged extortion try on representatives of Czech company Inekon Group in connection with the contract or transaction for the supply of Light Rail Vehicles in 2012.
Vitangcol 3rd has dismissed the charge as “baseless.”