Marinduque lawmaker seeks graft case dismissal
MANILA — Yet another lawmaker has invoked the alleged prosecution delays of the Office of the Ombudsman in seeking the dismissal of his case in connection with the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.
Former Marinduque Rep. Edmundo Reyes Jr., in a 12-page motion to quash, asked the Sandiganbayan First Division to throw out his cases for two counts of malversation through falsification and one count of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Reyes said the Ombudsman took five years and seven months to finish the preliminary investigation stage on the June 2011 complaint. The charges were only brought to the anti-graft court this month.
The Ombudsman’s criminal indictment was already made final on Sept. 28, 2015, when Reyes’s motions for reconsideration were denied.
Yet, it took one year and five months for the case to reach the court, even as the criminal charge sheets “consist merely of four pages for each information or a total of 12 pages.”
Reyes added that “without a doubt, there was an unreasonable, vexatious, capricious and oppressive delay” on the Ombudsman’s part because the charges were only filed 13 years after the fertilizer funds were allegedly misused in 2004.
The Ombudsman, he said, violated his right to due process and speedy disposition of his cases.
Reyes’ legal tactic was similar to that of former Rizal Governor Casimiro Ynares Jr. and former Surigao del Norte Governor Robert Lyndon Barbers, who were both accused in the irregular purchases of overpriced fertilizers in 2004.
Both Ynares and Barbers had also assailed the length of the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation stage prior to being charged also this February.
Reyes and six Department of Agriculture regional officials were implicated in the allegedly irregular release of P5 million to tranches to Gabaymasa Development Foundation, Inc.
The Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor said the non-government organization was selected on March 10, 2004 to implement the Farm Inputs and Farm Implements Program.
This was despite its alleged lack of qualifications under Commission on Audit Circular No. 96-003. The accused officials then allegedly released P3.25 million, or 65% of the amount, on May 4 when the memorandum of agreement only provides for the initial release of 20% upon signing.
The remaining P1.75 million was then immediately released on Dec. 29 in violation of the agreed-upon tranches. This was despite Gabaymasa’s supposed failure to submit and comply with the reportorial requirements under the MoA.
In order to facilitate the releases, the officials allegedly conspired to falsify the disbursement vouchers by making it appear that Gabaymasa was a qualified NGO and had submitted the required documents for its accreditation. SFM