The prosecution asked the Sandiganbayan’s First Division has to reconsider its ruling dismissing the graft case filed against former Pampanga Gov. Manuel “Lito” Lapid and several others in connection with the alleged anomalous purchase of fertilizers in 2004.
The court on September 30, 2016 threw out the case because of the “unjustified” delay in the investigation of the case by the Office of the Ombudsman.
But the prosecution said the time consumed to investigate the complaint was “reasonable.”
“With all due respect, the Honorable Court erred in its finding that accused Lapid, Aquino-Abubakar, Aquino and Vasquez’s constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases have been violated,” the prosecution said in an 11-page motion for reconsideration.
Lapid’s petition to dismiss the case was adopted by private respondents Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar, Leolita Aquino, and Dexter Alexander Vasquez.
The anti-graft court was urged to give particular regard to the facts and circumstances peculiar to the case.
“Fertilizer scam cases consist of complex issues, voluminous documents, various respondents and various witnesses mostly of poor farmers, where tedious investigative efforts were applied in the immediate disposition of the preliminary investigation of these cases,” the prosecution pointed out.
ccording to the court, the Office of the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation took three years and a month. The complaint was filed in 2011 but a case was only filed against Lapid and the other respondents last year.
In dismissing the complaint, the Sandiganyan said ”no plausible explanation was given to justify the delay” in the investigation.
In its motion for reconsideration, the prosecution said: “Extraordinary complication should have been considered such as the degree of difficulty of the questions involved, several number of accused and witnesses offering evidence of anomaly, coupled with the several extensions filed by them are events that effectively stymied the normal work activity or disposition of these cases. To be exact, the last pleading filed by the accused was in July 2014. The Information was filed on 04 November 2015.”
“Based on records, accused were given ample time to refute the complaint against them. Despite the original period given to file their appropriate pleadings several extensions were asked and given to them by the Office of the Ombudsman. Such that, to fault the Office of the Ombudsman and include the period spent for the allowance on extensions asked to file their counter-affidavit and other several motions for the production of documents and the like is unfair for the prosecution,” it added.
State prosecutors also dismissed as unfounded the claim of Lapid, Aquino-Abubakar, Aquino, and Vasquez that their right to speedy trial was violated.
“It was not shown how they suffered from the alleged violation of their right to speedy disposition of the case. Their claim is baseless and, to our mind, completely imaginary,” they said.
“As regards the Honorable Court’s ruling that the delay is prejudicial since the defense witnesses are unable to recall accurately the events of the distant past, it must be stated that both the accused and the prosecution stand equally prejudiced if their material witnesses cannot be located or fail to remember the relevant events as a result of further delays in trying these cases,” the prosecution added.
The Ombudsman had alleged that the fertilizer was purchased without public bidding and that procurement rules were violated when direct purchasing was resorted to “despite the availability of a suitable substitute offered at a much lower price in the locality.”
The fertilizer was allegedly sold at P1,250 per liter when its real value was supposedly only P150 per liter, according to the Ombudsman.