The First Division of the Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft charges against a former chief and commissioners of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) after the Office of the Ombudsman failed to resolve their pleadings on time.
In a five-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Rodolfo Ponferrada and concurred in by Associate Justices Efren Dela Cruz and Rafael Lagos, the anti-graft court ruled in favor of the defendants, former PCGG chairperson Camilo Sabio and former commissioners Tereso Javier, Narciso Nario, Nicasio Conti, and Ricardo Abcede who passed away in April 2012.
The resolution granted the urgent motion filed by Conti last year which sought to dismiss the cases, claiming that the Office of the Ombudsman failed to complete the preliminary investigation of the complaint against him despite the “unexplained long delay of twenty long months” or almost two years.
Also granted were Nario and Javier’s manifestation and motion to dismiss dated April 7, 2014.
“That the prosecution filed on April 21, 2014, the March 26, 2014 Order that was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on April 15, 2014, belated and unjustified as it is and already beyond the period granted in the Court’s Resolutions of March 14, 2012 and February 12, 2014 will not, as aptly pointed out by the said accused cure/heal or does not cure/heal the prosecution’s infringement of their constitutional right to speedy disposition of their cases,” the Sandiganbayan pointed out.
The court gave 20 extensions to the anti-graft body since 2012 because of the delay in resolving the defendants’ motions for reconsideration. The last extension that the court granted in a resolution on February 12, 2014 gave the Office of the Ombudsman until March 19, or a “non-extendible” period of 30 days, to submit the result of the cited preliminary investigation.
Despite receiving the said resolution on February 17, the Office of the Ombudsman “still failed to resolve the motion for reconsideration filed by accused Nario and Javier, and to file the result of its preliminary investigation insofar as accused Conti is concerned” within the period that expired on March 19, the court said.
Also, prosecutors deferred commenting on the pleadings of Conti, Nario and Javier as the court required in an order on April 10. Instead, they submitted for resolution of the court a manifestation with motion dated April 21.
Attached to the said manifestation was Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan’s March 26, 2014 order approved by Morales last April 15. The Ombudsman’s ruling affirmed the graft charges.
The court then gave Conti, Nario and Javier 10 days in a resolution last April 24 to comment on the prosecution’s manifestation and motion and on the Ombudsman’s March 26 order, warning that it would decide the cases with or without their comments after the lapse of the given period.
The three argued that their right to due process and to the speedy disposition of their cases were already violated. They said that the prosecution’s failure to comply with the court’s resolutions on March 14, 2012 and February 12 to resolve their motions for reconsideration warrants the dismissal of the cases.
The Sandiganbayan then resolved to dismiss the cases. The hold departure order against Conti, Nario and Javier were also lifted and their bail bonds ordered released.
The two counts of graft stemmed from a complaint by the Ombudsman’s field investigation office over the alleged anomalous vehicle rental lease agreement entered into by the PCGG with United Coconut Planters Bank Leasing and Finance Corp. in 2007 and 2009.