Sandigan junks Ombudsman appeal on ex-Laguna mayor’s graft case
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has affirmed the dismissal of the graft case against former San Pedro, Laguna mayor Calixto Cataquiz on the grounds of inordinate delay by the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a three-page resolution dated May 16, the court’s Fifth Division denied the appeal by state prosecutors on its Feb. 28 ruling because it was barred by the prohibition on double jeopardy.
Even if the case did not go through a full-blown trial, the court said the dismissal of the graft case for the violation of Cataquiz’s right to the speedy disposition of his case already amounted to an acquittal.
“A dismissal with or without the express consent of the accused will be a bar to the subsequent prosecution of the accused for the same offense,” read the resolution.
“In effect, the dismissal of the instant case is equivalent to an acquittal, as a recognition of the accused’s [Cataquiz] right to speedy disposition of cases,” it added.
In its earlier ruling, the court said the prosecution failed to justify why it took four years and eleven months to finish preliminary investigation, which began when the complaint was filed November 2011 until the case was brought to the Sandiganbayan in October 2016. The court said the case did not involve complex legal and factual issues to warrant the length of investigation.
Cataquiz was charged in connection with the 2008 purchase of an allegedly overpriced 16,808-square meter property from Erlinda and Katrina Sietereales. The property was bought for P15,967,600 at P950 per square meter. Prosecutors claimed the original price was only P460 per square meter but the value was jacked up when Cataquiz allegedly reclassified the agricultural lot as residential.
Cataquiz’s case is just one of the dozens that recently failed to reach trial on the grounds of inordinate delay, alarming Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales who moved to question the doctrine before the Supreme Court.
Morales in her April 25 press briefing said a favorable Supreme Court ruling would allow her office to revive the corruption cases that had not gone to trial since there would be no double jeopardy in the case of defendants who were never arraigned.
“The cases were dismissed even before arraignment has been held. Nothing would prevent us from refilling the cases if needed be,” Morales said back then. Cataquiz’s case apparently would not be affected by this plan. SFM
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