Sandigan junks graft case vs ex-Pampanga officials

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The Sandiganbayan’s Special First Division has dismissed a graft case filed against former Pampanga provincial accountant Benjamin Yuzon and former treasurer Vergel Yabut in connection with an allegedly anomalous purchase of fertilizer in 2004.

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They were among those charged with former Pampanga governor and senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid.

Last September, the court granted a motion to dismiss filed by Lapid and adopted by three others, for violation of their right to speedy case disposition.

The ruling prompted Yuzon and Yabut to also seek case dismissal, citing the same ground, last October.

Granting their plea in a 10-page resolution promulgated on December 16, the court said, “Significantly, the same facts and circumstances upon which this court based its findings that the Office of the Ombudsman violated the rights of accused Lapid, et al., to the speedy disposition of their cases are also present in the cases of their co-accused Yuzon and Yabut. Being similarly situated, the ruling of this court in favor of Lapid, et al., in its resolution dated 30 September 2016, must perforce equally apply to the herein movants, accused Yuzon and Yabut.”

“Accordingly, the case against them is hereby ordered dismissed, for violation of their rights to the speedy disposition of their cases, without prejudice to any civil liability which the province of Pampanga may file against them,” it held.

The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz and concurred in by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz, who leads the court’s First Division, and Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi.

In a 14-page resolution promulgated on September 30, the court found that the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation took three years before the case was filed in court in 2015.

“All in all, the unjustified delay during the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation qualifies as vexatious, capricious and oppressive. Without a reasonable explanation, the delay in the latter’s proceedings is unwarranted considering the adverse affects and/or prejudice that such long delay may cause upon the defense of the accused,” it said.

The court thus granted the urgent motion, which was filed by Lapid earlier last year and which was adopted by Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar and Leolita Aquino, who were incorporators of Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation and Dexter Alexander Vasquez, then-proprietor of D.A. Vasquez Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources.

In filing the case in 2015, the Ombudsman alleged that the items were purchased without calling for the required public bidding, and that these were overpriced by as much as P4.268 million because the fertilizer was sold at P1,250 per liter when its real value was only P150 per liter.

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