The Sandiganbayan’s Special Sixth Division dismissed the two graft cases and two malversation cases filed against former Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary and now Bohol Third District Rep. Arthur Yap in connection with alleged misappropriation of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) totaling P14.55 million in 2007.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed the cases last year before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan against former Nueva Ecija Rep. Rodolfo Antonino and other individuals including Yap.
Voting 3-2 in a nine-page resolution, the Special Sixth Division granted Yap’s urgent omnibus motion and dismissed the cases “as regards said accused for violation of his constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases.”
“In these cases, the passage of time in the conduct of the preliminary investigation has already adversely affected the defense of accused Yap. It has obviously caused tactical disadvantage in the preparation of his defense. Accused Yap served as the Secretary of the” DA “from the year 2004 up to 2010. The subject transaction occurred during his incumbency as DA Secretary. It was only four (4) years thereafter that a complaint was filed against him. Hence, during the course of the preliminary investigation and up to the time the informations were filed in court, the accused no longer had access to documents and other pieces of evidence.
As such, the retrieval and examination thereof has already become very difficult. Moreover, witnesses may no longer recall accurately the events and transactions which have transpired more than seven (7) years ago,” the court said in part.
According to the court’s resolution, Yap “was subjected to fact-finding investigation and preliminary investigation within a combined period of seven (7) years, two (2) months, and seven (7) days.”
According to the same resolution, the Office of the Ombudsman received the complaint-affidavit in June 2014 and filed the cases before the Sandiganbayan on August 22, 2017.
“The prosecution failed to prove factual circumstances that could have justified its delay in the conduct of the preliminary investigation. Instead of offering any plausible reason to justify why the Office of the Ombudsman spent more than three (3) years and two (2) months in conducting its preliminary investigation, the prosecution merely asserted the presumption of regularity in the performance by the Office of the Ombudsman of its functions and the alleged failure of the accused to show any sign of asserting his right to a speedy disposition of cases,” the court said in part.
The court said that even without a plea from him for the early resolution of the cases, it was the prosecution’s duty to finish the preliminary investigation “with reasonable dispatch.”
Thus, the court granted Yap’s urgent omnibus motion wherein he sought dismissal of the cases.
“The hold departure order issued by the court against the abovenamed accused, if any, is hereby lifted and set aside, and the cash bond he posted is ordered released, subject to the usual accounting and auditing procedures,” the court said.
Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi penned the ruling which was concurred in by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Geraldine Faith Econg. Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez, who leads the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division, and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto dissented.
The others charged with graft along with Antonino last year were: Alan Javellana (an Accused in two counts), Rhodora Mendoza (two counts), Encarnita Munsod (two counts), and Maria Ninez Guañizo (one count), who were formerly from the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor); and Marilou Antonio (two counts) and Carmelita Barredo (two counts).
The others charged with malversation along with Antonino last year were: Javellana (two counts), Mendoza (two counts), Munsod (two counts), Guañizo (one count), Antonio (two counts) and Barredo (two counts).
According to the charge sheets, Antonino allegedly “unilaterally chose and indorsed” the supposedly
“unaccredited and unqualified” non-government organization Buhay Mo Mahal Ko Foundation, Inc. (BMMKFI) as project partner in implementing the PDAF-funded livelihood project for barangays (villages) in Nueva Ecija’s fourth district.
The first graft case and malversation case involved at least P13.095 million. The Office of the Ombudsman alleged that the accused then-public officials’s supposed acts “allowed Antonio, through BMMKFI, to take possession of and thus misappropriate said PDAF-drawn public funds, instead of implementing the PDAF-funded project, which turned out to be non-existent, to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines.”
The second graft case and malversation case involved at least P1.455 million. The Ombudsman alleged that the accused then-public officials’s supposed acts “allowed Antonio and Barredo, through BMMKFI, to take possession of and thus misappropriate said PDAF-drawn public funds, instead of implementing the PDAF-funded project, which turned out to be non-existent, to the damage and prejudice of the Republic of the Philippines.”