Slowpoke Ombudsman loses case

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Lack of follow-through action after a formal complaint against a high-ranking official led to a loss for the Office of the Ombudsman.

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The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division dumped the case against Ernesto Cardiño, former commissioner of the Commission on the Settlement of Land Problems (Coslap), an agency attached to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ombudsman alleged that Cardiño extended his authority within a two-month period by retroacting a DOJ order on his reinstatement as the commission head.

His case showed that between March 10 and May 5, 2003, Cardiño led the agency as officer-in-charge, when in fact, Ombudsman said that his extension services was only issued on May 5, 2003.

“[Cardiño] did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously perform and usurp the official functions of the commissioner of Coslap to the prejudice of public interest,” the information read.

But in a resolution promulgated on Friday last week, the Sandiganbayan ultimately dropped his case because it took the Ombudsman eight years to file the information in July 2011 since the complaint was lodged at the Ombudsman level in July 2003.

The court noted that from 2003, it took three years for the Ombudsman to approve the filing of the charges and another five years before former acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro to order the filing of information.

Cardiño said that there were no special circumstances to warrant the delay of the case, to which the Sandiganbayan agreed.

“Eight years and 11 days had already elapsed from the time the initiatory complaint was filed,” the Sandiganbayan ruled. “The Supreme Court held that the inordinate delay of six years in resolving a criminal complaint [violates]the rights of defendant.”

It added that the Ombudsman could not explain such delay and that the prosecution “deliberately chose to just remain silent” on the issue.

“The facts in this case bear the hallmarks of inordinate delay in the termination of the preliminary investigation, thereby infringing upon [Cardiño’s] constitutional right,” the 10-page resolution read.

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