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Inordinate delay: Sandigan junks raps vs Pampanga mayor

Elizabeth Marcelo - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has junked the graft and malversation charges filed against Mayor Teddy Tumang of Mexico, Pampanga and five other municipal officials due to the “inordinate delay” in the investigation and filing of cases by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The anti-graft court’s fourth division granted the respective motions to quash and dismiss the cases filed by Tumang and his co-accused, municipal officials Perlita Lagman, Marlon Maniacup, Lucila Agento, Jesus Punzalan and Luz Bondoc.

The court dismissed 29 cases of graft and malversation of public funds, which stemmed from alleged irregularities in the municipal government's procurement of construction supplies in 2007 and 2008.

“Given the unjustified passage of a long time in the conduct of the preliminary investigation and in view of the ensuing prejudice that such delay caused to the accused, their right to the speedy disposition of their cases was violated... The complaints filed against them should be abated and dismissed,” the fourth division said in its resolution promulgated on Nov. 25.

The court said the inordinate delay on the part of the ombudsman was tantamount to violation of the defendants’ constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases.

It noted that the ombudsman’s formal investigation of the first batch of complaints against the accused started as early as December 2017 while the investigation of the second batch of complaints started in August 2018. It was only on March 23 and July 8 this year when the cases were filed in two batches.

The fourth division gave no weight to the prosecution team’s argument that the investigation was hampered by the COVID pandemic.

“The court is not persuaded that the operations within the ombudsman were at a virtual standstill during the entire length of the period between March 2020 until October 2021,” it said.        

SANDIGANBAYAN

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