SC reverses dismissal of Lito Lapid graft charge
The Supreme Court has reversed a decision by the Sandiganbayan dismissing the graft charges against Sen. Lito Lapid, in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam of 2004.
In a two-page order released on Thursday, the high court also ordered the Sandiganbayan to resume hearing the case.
“The resolutions insofar as it dismissed the criminal case against respondents Manuel Lapid, M. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar, Leolita Aquino and Dexter Alexander S.D Vasquez are reversed and set aside. Sandiganbayan is directed to resolve the criminal case with reasonable dispatch,” said the resolution penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., with the concurrence of retired justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Amy Lazaro-Javier and Rodil Zalameda.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang said in response, “The Supreme Court is the final arbiter of all justiciable issues. In the hierarchy of courts, the Supreme Court is at the apex; hence, all lower courts, like the Sandiganbayan, must pay obeisance to the Supreme Court ruling.”
The fertilizer scam, one of several scandals hounding Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration, is said to involve the widespread purchase of overpriced fertilizers to the detriment of the government.
The Office of the Ombudsman said in its original information that when Lapid was Pampanga governor in 2004, he approved the purchase of 3,880 bottles of fertilizers amounting to some P4.761 million, at P1,250 per liter. Lapid approved the purchase despite there being another prospective supplier offering at a much lower price of P150 per liter.
In 2016, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the case against Lapid due to “inordinate delay.”
But in its Dec. 5 decision overturning the case, the Supreme Court applied its new computation for deciding what constitutes inordinate delay, which excludes the fact-finding phase from the computation.
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