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Ex-Munti mayor off the hook for graft case

/ 12:34 PM August 07, 2017

The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the P22-million graft case against former Muntinlupa City Mayor Aldrin San Pedro citing unreasonable delays in the Office of the Ombudsman’s investigation.

In a 13-page resolution dated July 28, the court’s Second Division rejected the prosecution’s request for 60 more days for reinvestigation and instead threw out the graft case altogether.

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The court agreed with San Pedro’s contention that the Ombudsman had already taken up too much time—seven years all in all—in its preliminary investigation of the alleged irregularities in the purchase of 40,000 trolley bags in 2008.

It said the prosecution was “remiss in its duty to prosecute the case with reasonable dispatch” because the case was only brought to the court on Nov. 14, 2015, more than three years after bids and awards committee secretariat head Abel Sumabat filed his complaint on May 9, 2012.

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“The prosecution already had more than three years within which to gather all evidence necessary to determine what and whom to indict had it exercised reasonable diligence in the performance of its duty,” read the resolution.

The court added that even before Sumabat blew the whistle, the Commission on Audit had already investigated the purchase of the bags as early as Sept. 29, 2008, when it asked San Pedro and the BAC to submit pertinent documents. In fact, CoA issued a notice of suspension on the payments on Apr. 15, 2009.

It noted the Ombudsman also dismissed in June 2011 an earlier criminal and administrative complaint filed by former city councilor Rafael Arciaga in connection with the same issue.

By including those proceedings in the computation of inordinate delay, the court said San Pedro was effectively subjected to fact-finding and preliminary investigations lasting more than seven years.

For the court, the alleged procurement anomalies were “not complex enough to justify the delay.”

The resolution was penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick L. Musngi and concurred in by Associate Justices Oscar C. Herrera Jr. and Lorifel L. Pahimna.

The former mayor’s case hounded his bid to reclaim the position from reelectionist Mayor Jaime Fresnedi of the Liberal Party in the 2016 elections.

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Besides San Pedro, the codefendants include bids and awards committee vice-chairman Michael Racelis, and BAC members Avelino Orellana, Rodolfo Oliquino, Vicente Navarro and Sonia Laureta.

The city officials were accused of purchasing the 40,000 trolley bags without appropriation. Prosecutors said the purchase was not included in the city’s annual procurement plan for 2008.

Prosecutors claimed that no bidding was conducted and that winning supplier CLMP Trading was not qualified due to various legal, technical and financial deficiencies. JE

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TAGS: Aldrin San Pedro, case, Graft, investigation, Muntinlupa, Ombudsman, Sandiganbayan
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