AN error in applying a provision of law resulted in the instant dismissal of the case of the close ally of former President Ferdinand Marcos and his co-accused, without them asking for it.
The Sandiganbayan dismissed the graft case of businessman Herminio Disini after the court ruled that it has no authority to try the case.
In a five-page resolution of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division, the court ruled that it cannot go on trying the case because the provision that the Ombudsman used prevents them from doing so.
In May, the Office of the Ombudsman charged Disini and officials of Herdis Management and Investment Corp. for inducing Marcos into amassing ill-gotten wealth amounting to P65 million from The Energy Corp. and Vulcan Industrial and Mining Corp.
Indicted along with Disini were Herdis board directors Angelo Manahan, Dominico Borja, Jerry Orlina, Alfredo Velayo and Jesus Disini, cousin of Herminio.
State prosecutors applied Section 3 (h) of the anti-graft law against the defendants where the defendants directly or indirectly had pecuniary interest in any business undertaking in connection with which “he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
The Sandiganbayan ruled that it is “self-evident” that the accused are “all exclusively private individuals.”
Section 3 of the anti-graft law outlines the provisions of the corrupt practices of “public officers,” while Section 4 stipulates the prohibitions on “private individuals.”
The magistrates reiterated that the anti-graft court is a “special court” with “limited jurisdiction,” which only extends to “public officers and employees.”
Since Marcos’ name appeared in the charge sheet only as part of the narration of the offense, the case cannot continue since all defendants are private persons, the magistrates rectified.
“President Marcos himself is not an accused in this case, nor could he legally ever be . . .
The only instance when the Sandiganbayan will have jurisdiction over a private individual in criminal cases is when such private individual has been charged either as a co-principal, accomplice or accessory of a public officer who has been charged,” the resolution read.
The court said that since the case was initiated by the Ombudsman and not by the Philippine Commission on Good Government, the anti-graft body cannot use the Sandiganbayan Act and its amendatory law as recourse.
Not one of the accused moved for the dismissal of the case on this ground. The Sandiganbayan clarified though that courts could take notice of their limits “by their own motion.”
In dismissing the case, the anti-graft court however did not preclude the Ombudsman from filing the graft in lower courts who may have jurisdiction over Disini and his co-accused.
Acting Presiding Justice Gregory Ong and Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Maria Cristina Cornejo signed the resolution.
John Constantine G. Cordon