Sandigan junks graft raps vs Bohol officials
Ric V. Obedencio (The Freeman) - January 25, 2016 - 9:00am

CEBU, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan first division has dismissed the graft charges filed against former governor and now Representative Rene Relampagos, former vice governor and now Governor Edgardo Chatto and others, according to resolution the anti-graft court promulgated on January 21.

“The court resolves to grant the separate motions to dismiss of accused Rene Relampagos, accused Edgar M. Chatto, Isabelito B. Tongco, Concepcion O. Lim, Tomas D. Abapo Jr., and Felix R. Uy and accused Dennis Villareal and hereby accordingly dismiss the case for violation of their constitutional right to speedy disposition of their case,” the court said.

Sandigan also lifted hold departure orders it issued against the said accused and “the bonds they posted for their provisional liberty are ordered released, subject to the usual accounting and auditing procedures.”

The said six-page resolution was signed by chairman Efren de la Cruz, associate justice Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and justice Rafael R. Lagos.

The complaint arose from the alleged under-valuation of the assets of Provincial Public Utilities Department’s power and water systems of the provincial government when it was dealt with Salcon consortium under the Joint Venture Agreement (JVA) while Relampagos and Chatto were governor and vice governor, respectively. The rest of the respondents, like incumbent Vice Governor Concepcio O. Lim, were provincial board members.

The respondents (Relampagos, Chatto, et al), earlier, filed motion to dismiss the Criminal Case Numbered SB 15 CRM 0283 for violation of section 3 (g) of the Republic Act 3019, as amended, otherwise known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Section 3, paragraph (g) of said law provides that “entering, on behalf of the government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby.”

Citing a Supreme Court ruling, the Sandiganbayan pointed out that the accused has a right to a speedy trial. And a violation of this constitutional right warrants a dismissal of the case.

It took 15 years for Ombudsman to file the case since a complaint was filed in 2000, the anti-graft court said in dismissing the case. The Ombudsman dismissed it in July 2008 but Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales resurrected it in 2014.

Carpio-Morales issued a resolution finding probable cause to charge the accused and subsequently a criminal information was filed on October 23, 2015.

Sandigan said it is convinced that the Ombudsman “incurred, inordinate and unjustified delay in the conduct of the preliminary investigation of this case in violation of the right of the accused to a speedy disposition of their case.”

Relampagos entered into a joint venture with Villareal to transfer the assets and franchise of the provincial electricity system to the power consortium for P75 million and of the water system to the water consortium for P80 million, for a combined amount of P150 million, although the combined value of the two utilities in terms of assets and franchise is P782 million.

The accused led by Relampagos and Chatto called for a press conference yesterday. (FREEMAN)

ABAPO JR. ACCUSED ACIRC ANTI-GRAFT AND CORRUPT PRACTICES ACT CASE CHATTO CONCEPCION O CRIMINAL CASE NUMBERED DENNIS VILLAREAL EDGAR M RELAMPAGOS AND CHATTO
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