THE Sandiganbayan has cleared two former Cebu congressmen of accusations that they endorsed an allegedly unqualified non-government organization (NGO) to carry out a government project in 2004 using their combined pork barrel funds amounting to P6 million.
The anti-graft court’s Fifth Division granted the motions to dismiss the graft case filed by Antonio Cuenco and Antonio Yapha Jr., former representatives of Cebu City south district and Cebu Province’s third district, respectively.
The Sandiganbayan ruled that the decade-long delay of the investigation violated the respondents’ rights to due process and speedy trial.
“The Office of the Ombudsman’s duty is not merely to investigate and prosecute cases against erring public officials. It is mandated by law to act with dispatch,” read the Sandiganbayan’s resolution.
“I am vindicated,” Cuenco said.
In July 2016, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales found evidence to charge Cuenco and Yapha with violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Eduardo Lecciones, former executive director of the Department of Agriculture (DA) Regional Field Unit, was also charged with two counts of graft.
In 2004, Cuenco and Yapha endorsed Kasosyo Foundation, Inc. to Lecciones as implementor of projects under their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The foundation had received over 60 percent of the P9-million fertilizer fund released for the congressional districts of Yapha and Cuenco.
Using the PDAF of Yapha and Cuenco, Kasosyo bought 4,000 bottles of liquid fertilizers at P1,500 per bottle, or a total project cost of P6 million.