The Supreme Court dismissed the case on the ground of “inordinate delay” as it took the ombudsman 12 years to finish its investigation before filing the case in court.

Sandiganbayan judge says SC must reverse 'inordinate delay' doctrine
Elizabeth Marcelo ( - July 28, 2017 - 8:07am

MANILA, Philippines — A senior magistrate of the Sandiganbayan on Friday admitted that there is a need to reverse the Supreme Court's “inordinate delay” doctrine which led to the dismissal of several high-profile cases filed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a speech at an anti-corruption forum in Quezon City, Sandiganbayan First Division chairman Associate Justice Efren De La Cruz said that though it is quite “disheartening,” the court's “hands are tied” to dismiss some cases which took the ombudsman several years to file before the court.

“Our hands are tied. We are hoping that the said decision will be reversed,” De La Cruz said.

De La Cruz was referring to a previous SC ruling, Coscolluela versus Sandiganbayan First Division, in which the high tribunal reversed the anti-graft court's decision and dismissed the graft case against Rafael Coscolluela, former governor of Negros Occidental.

The SC dismissed the case on the ground of “inordinate delay” as it took the ombudsman 12 years to finish its investigation before filing the case in court.

The Coscolluela vs Sandiganbayan ruling are usually being employed by several public officials to seek the dismissal of their cases.

In a span of four months or from January to April of this year, more than 20 cases have already been dismissed by the Sandiganbayan due to the inordinate delay doctrine, particularly those in connection with the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.

Among the fertilizer fund scam cases recently junked due to “inordinate delay” were those against Masbate governor Antonio Kho, former Antique governor Salvacion Perez, former Parañaque Rep. Eduardo Zialcita, former Cebu Representatives Antonio Cuenco and Antonio Yapha Jr., former Palawan Representatives and incumbent Games and Amusement Board chairman Abraham Kahlil Mitra and former Senator Lito Lapid.

De La Cruz admitted that there is a need to revisit the “inordinate delay” doctrine as Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act provides a 15-year prescriptive period to file a case from the commission of the crime.

“After all there is what we call prescriptive period of offenses –15 years! With the SC's doctrine, even with a delay of just four years, the case can already get dismissed. That is why we are hoping, ha, we are hoping that the decision will be reconsidered,” De La Cruz said.

De La Cruz also cited another ruling by the SC (Torres versus Sandiganbayan) in which the high court said the Ombudsman's case build-up stage or fact-finding investigation must be included in the computation of the “inordinate delay”.

“We have no choice but to follow (the SC ruling)...As long as the accused has no part in the delay, they invoke the inordinate delay [doctrine] before the judge. In turn, the prosecution should justify the delay,” De La Cruz said.

In its 16-page motion dated March 24, the ombudsman's Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) prayed to SC to direct the Sandiganbayan to temporarily suspend the application of the “inordinate delay” doctrine as the high tribunal has yet to rule on its petition seeking clarification on the doctrine's true meaning and application.

“Petitioner respectfully submits that public respondent Sandiganbayan's dismissal of cases on the ground of 'inordinate delay' has progressively been premised on overly strict and almost unrealistic standards,” the ombudsman's motion read.

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