Define ‘inordinate delay,’ Ombudsman asks SC | Inquirer News

Define ‘inordinate delay,’ Ombudsman asks SC

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 12:20 AM April 02, 2017

The Office of the Ombudsman is asking the Supreme Court to stop the Sandiganbayan from acquitting respondents in graft cases on the basis of “inordinate delay” in the trial of government officials accused of corruption.

The constitutional body tasked with investigating and prosecuting corruption cases also asked the high court to define what inordinate delay really meant.

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In a 16-page motion dated March 23, the Ombudsman asked the high court to make a clear ruling on when inordinate delay may be cited in acquitting graft respondents, a practice that had led to acquittals in some high-profile corruption cases that the Ombudsman investigated and is prosecuting.

The Ombudsman urged the Supreme Court to “direct the Sandiganbayan to temporarily suspend the application of the ‘inordinate delay’ doctrine” pending a ruling of the high court on what inordinate delay really meant.

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The Ombudsman had lost a number of high-profile cases because of alleged delays in the investigation of the cases.

Winston Garcia case

One of these cases involved Winston Garcia, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) head during the Arroyo administration, who was investigated for and charged with corruption when he, in May 2004, awarded the so-called GSIS e-card project to Union Bank owned by the Aboitiz family even before the period for submission of bids had lapsed.

The Ombudsman also lost several cases involving the theft of government funds, supposedly spent on overpriced fertilizers, that then critics of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said were used to finance her campaign to be elected to a regular term.

In its motion, the Ombudsman said “the core issue” in its plea for Supreme Court intervention was “how the legal concept of inordinate delay” should be applied to graft cases without violating the Constitution’s guarantee that “all persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases” in all “judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies.”

“While it is well-established in jurisprudence that criminal cases may be dismissed on the ground of denial of the accused’s right to speedy trial, the concept of ‘inordinate delay’ that amounts to a violation of said right has eluded exact definition,” said the Ombudsman’s motion.

It said the Supreme Court, in its rulings, had laid down general guidelines on how courts should validate claims that respondents’ rights to speedy trial had been violated.

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Dissonance

The Ombudsman, however, said there was a “marked and irreconcilable dissonance” between the Supreme Court guidelines and acquittals made by the Sandiganbayan, citing inordinate delay, including on the case against Winston Garcia.

As an example, the Ombudsman cited a high court decision acknowledging that “delays in the investigation process are inevitable especially when a case had to be reassigned due to staff movement and when a significant amount of time is needed to judiciously review voluminous documentary evidence.”

The Sandiganbayan, however, “showed no realistic appreciation of how corruption cases progress through various bureaucratic channels in our country and how much time is expended for every stage of the process,” said the Ombudsman’s motion.

The Ombudsman said the Sandiganbayan has its own interpretation of inordinate delay which has “far-reaching consequences” and which should prompt the Supreme Court to “clearly spell out the contours, extent and limitations of this confusing concept.”

The Ombudsman also asked the high court to refer its motion to the Supreme Court en banc, from the First Division, because it was of “transcendental public importance and will have significant effect on the investigation and prosecution of corruption cases.”

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TAGS: inordinate delay, Office of the Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan, Supreme Court
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