Court drops case vs ex-Bataan gov over delay

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THE Sandiganbayan’s Special Second Division dismissed a graft case filed against former Bataan governor Leonardo Roman because of inordinate delay–11 years–on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman in investigating the case.

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The case, which was filed last year against Roman and several others, stemmed from the construction of a mini-theater at the Bataan State College.

In a 13-page resolution promulgated on December 14, the Sandiganbayan granted Roman’s appeal to void the charge sheet on the ground that his right to speedy case disposition was violated.

“This court cannot ignore the prejudice against the accused caused by the lengthy delay of [11] years in the conduct of the preliminary investigation proceedings and determination of probable cause. The unreasonable length of time will cause tactical disadvantages to the accused especially on the preparation of his defense.

Thus, based on the above-mentioned factors, this court finds that there was inordinate delay in the proceedings and that the constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases of the accused has been violated.”

The Sandiganbayan granted Roman’s Urgent Motion to Quash Information and dismissed the case against him and his co-accused.

In his urgent motion filed in October, he argued that it had been almost 12 years from the filing of the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman in 2004 up to the Supreme Court’s (SC) final ruling on the issue of probable cause last August.

Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi penned the ruling, concurred in by Associate Justice Samuel Martires, who leads the court’s Second Division, and Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg.

The case stemmed from a private complainant’s petition before the SC in July 2011, questioning the Ombudsman’s ruling that dismissed the complaint.

“Like the accused, a private complainant too has certain rights that must be respected, such as the right to due process,” the anti-graft court said.

The court said that “[t]he prosecution has not presented any reason or justification for the delay in the conduct of preliminary investigation on the instant case.”

It added that “the preliminary investigation was terminated after five years” from the time that the complaint was filed in 2004.

Based on the Sandiganbayan’s ruling, the Ombudsman issued a resolution dismissing the complaint in 2006 that was approved in June 2008.

The private complainant then filed a motion for reconsideration in August 2008 which the Ombudsman denied in October 2009.

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