Petilla pointed out that it took the Office of the Ombudsman 12 years to investigate and file a case.
Ex-Energy chief seeks dismissal of 'delayed' fertilizer scam raps
( - April 25, 2018 - 8:56pm

MANILA, Philippines — Former Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho “Icot” Petilla has asked the Sandiganbayan to order the dismissal of his graft case in connection with the 2004 fertilizer fund scam, citing the Office of the Ombudsman's inordinate delay in its investigation.

In his 13-page motion filed before the anti-graft court's Fourth Division, Petilla said the charges against him must be dismissed as the ombudsman violated his constitutional right to speedy resolution of his case.

"The ombudsman gave absolutely no reason as to the cause of the decade-long delay of the conduct of the preliminary investigation against Accused Petilla. In fact, when this issue was raised by the accused before the Ombudsman, it was simply brushed aside without giving any plausible reason for the delay," Petilla's motion read.

Filed by the ombudsman on April 6, the graft case against Petilla stemmed from his alleged involvement in the multimillion-peso fertilizer fund scam, during his term as governor of Leyte.

Also charged with Petilla was his mother — incumbent Palo, Leyte mayor Remedios Petilla — and three other former provincial officials.

Castle Rock Construction

Based on the charge sheets, the provincial government, during Remedio's term as governor on May 3, 2004, paid a total of P3.131 million to private supplier Castle Rock Construction for the purchase of 350 gallons of Florida Green Foliar Liquid Fertilizer.

Jericho, who succeeded his mother's post after the May 10, 2004 elections, also allegedly purchased from Castle Rock 350 gallons of Florida Green Foliar Liquid Fertilizer, but this time, at a lower price of P1.686 million.

The ombudsman said the purchase contracts were awarded to Castle Rock without the benefit of public bidding. Instead, the Petillas, “in conspiracy” with the other then provincial officials, allegedly resorted to direct contracting without any valid justification and despite the presence of other manufacturers and distributors accredited by the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority offering the same type of product.

Furthermore, ombudsman said the respondents' reference to a specific brand name of fertilizer in the Purchase Request was in violation of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act as it deprived the government the opportunity to obtain a similar type of product at a more reasonable price.

12-year delay in filing in court

In his motion, Petilla said there is no justifiable reason for the ombudsman to take more than 12 years to file the case in court, especially as the ombudsman's Task Force Abono began its investigation on the Fertilizer Fund Scam as early as February 2006.

Petilla said that from the alleged commission of the crime in 2004, it took the Task Force Abono seven years and four months to finish its field investigation before a formal complaint was filed against him on June 21, 2013.

Petilla said that from the filing of the formal complaint, it took the ombudsman additional four years and nine months to wrap up its preliminary investigation and file the case at the Sandiganbayan

“The ombudsman is deemed ousted of authority to file the [case] information by reason of the inordinate delay,” Petilla said.

Petilla lamented that the “inordinate delay” in the ombudsman's investigation, has placed him at a tactical disadvantage in defending himself in court. Petilla said some of the records from 2004 which he might as documentary evidence were already lost or destroyed due to natural calamities, especially as Supertyphoon Yoland hit the province in 2013.

Petilla said former provincial agriculturist Rogelio Portula, with whom he relied upon when he signed the questioned transactions, had already passed away before the filing of the case in court.

“In other words, the cards are already stacked against Accused Petilla...Had the Ombudsman followed its mandate and expedited proceedings, Accused Petilla could have prepared more adequately for the indictment against him by securing documents and the taking of affidavits of witnesses,” Petilla said.

Meanwhile, in an opposition paper, the ombudsman's prosecution panel maintained that the delay in its investigation on the Petillas and their co-accused was not “inordinate, capricious or vexatious” but to rather to “duly afford the respondents time to counter the charges against them”.

The prosecution also said that it was the first time that Petilla has raised the issue of inordinate delay but never done the same when the complaint is pending before the ombudsman. Thus, the prosecution said, Petilla's motion should be denied by the court as he is considered to have slept on his constitutional right to speedy resolution of the case.

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