SC revives graft case vs. Sen. Lito Lapid
MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court (SC) has revived the graft case against Senator Manuel “Lito” Lapid for his alleged involvement in the multi-million peso fertilizer fund scam.
In a 13-page decision, the high court’s second division through Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr. reversed and set aside the resolution issued by the Sandiganbayan on Sept. 30, 2016 and December 13, 2016 dismissing the graft cases against Lapid, Malayan Pacific Trading Corporation (MPTC) officials Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar, Leolita Aquino and Macro-Micro Fertilizer Resources proprietor Alexander S.D. Vasquez.
The anti-graft court dismissed the case due to violation of the respondents’ right to a speedy disposition of their cases due to the inordinate delay on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman in conducting its fact-finding investigation on the matter.
In reversing the 2016 ruling, the high court said the Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion in dismissing the case against Lapid and his co-accused.
The high court noted that the case against the respondents started on May 2, 2011, through the Field Investigation Office- Task Force Abono of the Ombudsman. Even the Sandiganbayan observed that there was no evidence to show that the Ombudsman commenced and conducted a fact-finding investigation as earlier as 2006.
It added that the panel found probable cause to indict Lapid and his co-accused for graft on September 18, 2013, or two years and four months from the filing of the complaint.
“Thus, from the filing of the formal complaint until the Ombudsman’s approval of the resolution finding probable cause against Lapid, et al, the length of time consumed for the preliminary investigation was three years and one month,” the high court ruled
“In sum, delay becomes inordinate only in the presence of arbitrary, vexatious and oppressive actions or inactions that are discernible from the proceedings. No such delay attended the Ombudsman’s proceedings that would warrant the dismissal of the criminal case against herein respondents,” it added.
Lapid and his co-accused are facing trial for violation of Section 3 (e) and 3 (g) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for alleged anomalous purchased of overprized liquid fertilizers amounting to P4.76 million from MPTC.
Based on the information of the case filed by Ombudsman, the purchase was made without public bidding as Lapid, based on the certification he issued, said there are no suitable substitute to Macro-Micro Foliar Fertilizer despite availability of a suitable substitute offered at a much lower price in the locality.
The Ombudsman further alleged that the purchased items were overpriced by as much as P4.268 million.
The offense was allegedly committed by Lapid and his co-accused in 2004 when he was still the governor of Pampanga.
The money for the purchase of the questioned items supposedly came from the P728-million funds of the Department of Agriculture for its “Ginintuang Masaganang Ani Program” of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.