The prosecution is appealing to the Sandiganbayan’s Second Division to reconsider the latter’s dismissal of graft and malversation charges against former Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Secretary Roberto Pagdanganan.
Last March, the anti-graft court threw out the charges, citing delay at the Office of the Ombudsman in resolving the complaint against Pagdanganan.
“[T]he delay in the completion of preliminary investigation proceedings cannot result in a denial of the State’s right to prosecute if such delay was not whimsically intended to cause prejudice to the accused,” the prosecution said in its motion for reconsideration.
It argued that Pagdanganan never questioned the alleged delay during the preliminary investigation and that it was not intended to cause prejudice to the accused.
“The prosecution begs the court to accept that there was, indeed, the workings of politics that affected the regular function of the Office of the Ombudsman. The office cannot be judged, much less, affected unfavorably, by whoever is at the helm of leadership. The State cannot be made to suffer the effects of politics resulting in losing the right to prosecute cases that were clearly evaluated and determined to have probable cause sufficient to hold the accused for trial,” the prosecution said.
Even when the charges were filed before the court in 2011, it added, Pagdanganan never complained of the delay until three years later.
The prosecution found it odd that he questioned the delay at the Office of the Ombudsman but not in the Sandiganbayan proceedings, where his motions for determination of probable cause as well as for reinvestigation and deferment of issuance of arrest warrant were never acted upon between 2011 and 2014.
“Pagdanganan was never under any form of prejudice during all this time. It is the plaintiff, People of the Philippines, which is being prejudiced, and to a considerable extent,” prosecutors told the court.
In persuading the Sandiganbayan, they cited a precedent case (Tilendo v. Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan) where the Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that there was no violation of the petitioner Payakan Tilendo’s right to speedy disposition of his case.
Tilendo’s inaction between 1999 when he filed his counter-affidavit at the National Bureau of Investigation and 2002 when the Ombudsman approved the filing of the case against him, gave the tribunal the impression that he did not object to the supervening delay thus “it was impliedly with his acquiescence.”
In 2004, Pagdanganan was charged along with Charles Avila and Bienvenido Garrido, executive directors of the National Council on Food Security and Job Creation; Rodolfo Vargas, deputy administrator of the Philippine Coconut Authority; and a consultant to the council.
They were accused of causing undue injury to the government in alleged conspiracy with private individuals Victorino Conducto and Domingo Lavilla, board members of Calauag Quezon Province Integrated Coconut Processing Plant Inc., by incorporating the private stock firm or at least approving its incorporation using as investment P30 million in public funds earmarked for the establishment of an integrated coconut processing plant in Quezon province.