Court junks graft case vs ex-LWUA execs

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The Sandiganbayan’s Special First Division has dismissed the graft complaint filed against former Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) Administrator Lorenzo Jamora and former Acting Deputy Administrator Wilfredo Feleo in connection with the disbursement of P1.1 million to a firm in 2004 as final payment for the Guimba Water Supply Project in Nueva Ecija.

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The court, in a nine-page resolution, said the Ombudsman took so long in investigating the case and granted the motions filed by Jamora and Feleo to dismiss the complaint. It also granted a similar motion filed by Renato Legaspi, who was charged in his capacity as former President and Chairman of Green Asia Construction and Development Corporation.

“The motions are impressed with merit. The Office of the Ombudsman committed inordinate and unreasonable delay in the conduct of the preliminary investigation,” the anti-graft court said.

It said the Ombudsman took six years to finish the investigation.

“The period of delay of more than six years, to the mind of the Court, is inordinate and unreasonable especially considering that the issue involved in the case is not complicated, and no valid explanation was offered for such delay,” the court said.

“The Office of the Ombudsman’s failure to resolve the complaint with such promptness and prudence as dictated by law and jurisprudence placed the accused in a tactical disadvantage and opened the possibility that their defense will be impaired. It is also probable that aside from the anxiety and unrest that came with a prolonged investigation, the availability of witnesses and documentary evidence to the accused was also affected considering that the subject transaction took place in 2004. The Court agrees that the action or inaction of the respondents should not control the conduct of the preliminary investigation, to which the Office of the Ombudsman has clear and express mandate,” it added.

Associate Justice Efren De La Cruz penned the ruling which was concurred in by Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Reynaldo Cruz. REINA TOLENTINO

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