Slow justice again lets Zamboanga solon off the hook in graft case | Inquirer News
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Slow justice again lets Zamboanga solon off the hook in graft case

/ 12:57 PM April 07, 2017

It was a second time for Zamboanga Del Sur Rep. Aurora Cerilles to get off the hook from her graft charge due to inordinate delay by the Ombudsman in charging her for an anomalous procurement of solar lights when she was governor in 2008.

This after the Sandiganbayan First Division granted Cerilles’ motion to dismiss her graft case for violation of her constitutional right to a speedy disposition of her case.

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Cerilles was charged with authorizing the 2008 procurement of 40 sets of solar lights worth P14.9 million for the Dumalinao municipality without public bidding.

The fund for the procurement came from the Priority Development Assistance Fund of then congressman Antonio Cerilles.

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READ: Zambo del Sur rep charged with graft over solar light anomaly 

In its resolution promulgated April 4, the anti-graft court First Division said the Ombudsman took four years and six months to complete its preliminary investigation from the filing of a joint affidavit in July 2011.

Also, the order directing the submission of counter affidavits was issued a year later or on Nov. 2012. Cerilles issued her counter affidavit in 2013.

Overall, the Ombudsman took five years and five days from the filing of the complaint to the filing of the criminal information before the Sandiganbayan in 2016.

“To the Court’s mind, such delay is inordinate and unreasonable,” the resolution read.

The court said the accused enjoys the right to a speedy disposition of cases under the 1987 Constitution.

The prosecution claimed that the accused contributed to the delays by filing motions for extensions of time.

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The court said each of the accused requested for an extension of not more than one month each, while the prosecution failed to justify it took more than a year to direct Cerilles to submit her counter-affidavit, even though the Commission on Audit (COA) report on the anomaly was available as early as October 2011.

The court agreed with Cerilles’ claim that the inordinate delay opened the possibility of impairing her defense and caused her unrest and anxiety.

“Thus, the Court is constrained to decree the dismissal of the present case for violation of the accused’s constitutional right to speedy disposition of their cases,” the court said.

Likewise acquitted were Cerilles’ co-accused, Bids and Awards Committee members Dr. Rino Soria, Atty. Mark Anthony Padayhag, Wenefreda Cañada and Evelyn Pununcialman, who all adopted Cerilles’ motion to dismiss.

According to their Ombudsman’s indictment against them, COA noted the absence of public bidding and that Cerilles approved the procurement through direct contracting.

The lack of public bidding gave undue preference to the supplier Willstrong Becker Philippines, which was awarded the contract on March 11, 2008, the same day the Bids and Awards Committee received the price quotation from Willstrong.

The Ombudsman also said the BAC resolution awarding the contract to Willstrong was approved on the same day by Cerilles.

This is the second time Cerilles was left off the hook due to violations of her right to speedy trial and the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay in filing the case.

In 2014, the Sandiganbayan Third Division dismissed Cerilles’ graft charge over the alleged overpricing of P6.879-million medical supplies in 2001

The court also cited the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay. The complaint against the respondents was filed March 2004, but it was only in July 2012 that the Ombudsman formally filed graft charges against them in the Sandiganbayan.

Following a spate of cases that were dismissed due to inordinate delay, the Ombudsman has asked the Supreme Court to clearly define what this doctrine meant.

The Ombudsman also 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. JE/rga

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Define ‘inordinate delay,’ Ombudsman asks SC

Slow justice gets Zambo Sur ex-gov Cerilles off the hook

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TAGS: anomalous, Aurora Cerilles, charges, Graft, Ombudsman, procurement, solar, solar lights, Zamboanga
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