CAGAYAN de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno got a breather after the Sandiganbayan First Division threw away a graft case against him and three other erstwhile officials of the Misamis Oriental Provincial Government for “inordinate delay.”
In a 17-page resolution promulgated last July 2, the anti-graft court recognized that all persons have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial, or administrative bodies.
The Sandiganbayan First Division said the Office of the Ombudsman took a protracted amount of time to complete its preliminary investigation and render a resolution on Moreno’s case.
The Court said based on the incidents culled from the records of cases, there was an inordinate delay in the resolution of the complaint particularly in the conduct of the preliminary investigation.
Then provincial governor Moreno, and then provincial administrator Patrick Gabutina, acting provincial accountant Divina Bade, provincial budget officer Elmer Wabe, and assistant provincial engineer Rolando Pacuribot had been charged with a graft case for the lease of an equipment supposedly done without public bidding.
Moreno's camp had previously filed several motions before the anti-graft court in relation to the case, among them a motion to dismiss the case on the ground of violation of due process and right to the speedy disposition of the case.
The Sandiganbayan said that from the time the complaint of Antonio M. Nunez, Jr. was lodged against the four accused before the Ombudsman, it took 10 months for the Field Investigation Unit (FIU) of the Office of the Ombudsman-Mindanao to make a finding and eventually file a complaint. From the filing of the said FlU complaint to the issuance of the Ombudsman Resolution finding probable cause, there was a delay of 1.5 years.
The court also noted that it took the Ombudsman almost 1 year to issue the resolution finding probable cause to indict the four for violation of the anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The anti-graft court also found that the case have been pending for more than three years with the Office of the Ombudsman from the fact finding phase to the preliminary investigation phase, up to the filing of the Information before the Sandiganbayan.
The above mentioned period lasted from February 3, 2015 to March 9, 2018, a period found by the anti-graft court to be ‘unreasonable.’
The court cited the Rules of Court which provides that each phase should be resolved in only 10 days as provided in Secs. 3 and 4 of Rule 112 but it took more than a year or more to come up with a resolution of the complaint, 50 days to approve the Ombudsman resolution, and 6 months just to file the information before the Court from the time of the denial of the motion for reconsideration.
"The consistent non-observance of the timelines provided show the neglect and wanton disregard by the investigators and officials of the Office of the Ombudsman of its very own rules," the anti-graft court ruled.
Moreno and the other accused was charged after awarding a lease contract to a private supplier Earth Tools of one unit Vibratory Roller for the periods October 1, 2009 to November 30, 2009 and February 1 to 28, 2010 amounting to P846,720.00 despite the lack of public bidding.
The accused's motion to quash information was denied but their motion to dismiss on the ground of inordinate delay was granted by the court.
The bonds posted by the accused are hereby ordered released by the court while the Hold Departure Order (HDO) dated March 16, 2018 issued against them are set aside and declared functus officio or expired.
The Sandiganbayan resolution was signed by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg and concurred by Associate Justice Chairperson Efren De La Cruz and Associate Justice Edgardo Caldona.