The Sandiganbayan Second Division on Tuesday dismissed the graft case against former Cavite governor Erineo “Ayong” Maliksi on the ground of inordinate delay. It blamed the Office of the Ombudsman for the dismissal, saying that the anti-graft body sat on the complaint for at least nine years before filing it in court.
In an 11-page resolution, the anti-graft court granted Maliksi’s motion to dismiss the case, agreeing with the latter’s contention that the Ombudsman took too long to resolve the complaints.
Former Cavite vice governor Juan Victor Remulla filed three complaints for graft and grave misconduct on August 7, 2005. However, these were resolved only last year and filed before the Sandigan in August 2014.
“Notwithstanding the painstaking effort of the prosecution to narrate in detail the progress of this case when it was then with the OMB, the cited sequence of events does not convince the Court that there was no inordinate delay that occurred within the nine years that the case was pending with the OMB,” the court said.
The prosecutors explained that three cases were filed against Maliksi, two of which were from Remulla, for graft and grave misconduct in 2005. The third case was through a Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) feedback report on the approved P10-million financial aid to Cavite province, then led by Maliksi.
From the prosecution’s narration, the court said, fact finding investigation was conducted from July 3, 2006 to September 26, 2008 or a period of two years and two months.
The court also found that because the Ombudsman’s Office sat on the first two cases, the third case involving the PCSO funds already caught up with it.
Even the routing of the request encountered some delay, the court noted, as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez signed the memorandum request only on November 10, 2008.
Then-Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’s approval was undated but considering that the PCSO case records’ transmittal for consolidation with the Remulla cases to the central records division was on April 6, 2010, the court said it either took her two years to approve the request or it took the same length of time before the Chief Administrative Officer of the Luzon office to transmit the PCSO case record.
Prosecutors said that the cases were resolved by the Luzon office as early as 2007 and forwarded the same year to the Ombudsman Proper, but that final action on the Resolution was overtaken by events such as the 2010 Quirino grandstand hostage-taking and the impeachment and consequent resignation of Gutierrez in 2011.
But the court said these “are events to which this Court can only lay witness, unless it is to be conceded or admitted that things came to a standstill at the (Ombudsman) due to them.”
At any rate, the Ombudsman’s Joint Resolution finding probable cause against the accused was issued only on July 8, 2014 or four years after the three cases were consolidated, the court said, noting however that it covered only the complaints from Remulla.
“The court cannot say that the cases of the accused were handled by the OMB with dispatch, as even the ministerial act of routing of records left something to be desired,” it pointed out.
“This is not to say that the cases of the accused should have been given priority over other cases, which equally deserve more prompt action, but at least, routine matters could have been executed at a faster pace in order to avoid unnecessary delay that expectedly bears heavily on the litigants, especially the accused in general. In this regard, it may be said that the delay in this case was unexplainable,” it said.
The court also said it is inconsequential to determine if Maliksi had followed up on the case against him during the nine years as prosecutors argued.
“As held in the Coscolluela case, being the respondents in the preliminary investigation proceedings, it was not their duty to follow up on the prosecution of their case, but conversely, it was the OMB’s responsibility to expedite the same within the bound of reasonable timeliness in view of its mandate to act promptly on all complaints lodged before it,” it said, citing a precedent Supreme Court case.
The ruling was penned by Second Division Chairperson Teresita Diaz-Baldos and concurred in by Associate Justices Napoleon Inoturan and Maria Cristina Cornejo
Maliksi was accused of giving unwarranted benefit, advantage, or preference to Allied Medical Laboratories Corporation by causing the purchase of P2.5-million worth of medicines from the said company for distribution in a national convention of barangay health workers in 2002 allegedly without calling a public bidding.