The Sandiganbayan’s First Division has thrown out the graft case filed against former Surigao del Sur second district Rep. Peter Paul Jed Falcon as well as the graft case filed against former Surigao del Sur second district Rep. Jesnar Falcon, after it found their rights to speedy case disposition were violated.
In a seven-page resolution promulgated on February 3, it found that the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) took five years and eight months to finish the preliminary investigation.
“The Court is of the view, and thus hereby rules, that the period of five years and eight months from receipt by the OMB of the complaint-affidavit on March 25, 2011 up to the filing of the Informations against the accused on November 9, 2016, that the OMB utilized in the preliminary investigation of these cases is inordinate, oppressive, capricious and vexatious, thereby violating the right of the said accused to speedy disposition of their cases,” the court said.
Informations refer to charge sheets.
The Ombudsman’s office charged the younger Falcon last November for allegedly causing the allocation and disbursement of his P13.1-million Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel fund to Kabus Foundation Inc. where he was supposedly an incorporator and chair of the Board of Trustees in 2005.
Meanwhile, his father Jesnar was charged for allegedly causing the procurement of 113 units of Suzuki Chariot Powercabs from RDAK Transport Equipment Inc. without the required public bidding in 2003.
The prosecution explained that the investigation took a long time because the Ombudsman’s office had to verify and authenticate the documents involved.
However, the court said, “it failed to specify the difficulty or struggle the OMB encountered in the verification and authentication of the said documents to justify its inaction of almost three and one half years from the accused’s filing of their joint counter-affidavit on June 10, 2011 up to the preparation and approval of the resolution on November 19, 2014 finding probable cause against the accused…Indeed, the documents which supported the Informations do not appear to be difficult to procure and verified at all. In fact, they were already attached to the complaint-affidavit.”
It added, “The Court is not convinced that the accused were not prejudiced merely because they failed to assert their right earlier than the filing of the Informations.”
The anti-graft court cited the Supreme Court’s pronouncement in the precedent case Coscolluela vs Sandiganbayan [First Division] that it is not the respondent’s duty to follow-up on the prosecution of his or her case.
Associate Justice Efren De La Cruz, who leads the court’s First Division, penned the ruling that was concurred by Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Bernelito Fernandez.