MANILA, Philippines - The Sandiganbayan anti-graft court has dismissed 2 criminal charges against former Malolos City Mayor Danilo A. Domingo citing unreasonable delay by the Office of the Ombudsman in conducting its investigation and filing the case.
Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval, Sandiganbayan Second Division chairman, upheld Domingo’s argument that his constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases was violated because the informations were filed with the graft court only on March 5, 2009 – more than five years after the complaint was lodged with the Ombudsman.
Associate Justices Teresita Diaz V. Baldos and Maria Cristina J. Cornejo concurred.
“The Court found the delay inordinate and unreasonable as to be violative of the respondent’s right to due process and to speedy disposition of cases against him, warranting the dismissal of the criminal cases,” the Sandiganbayan declared.
The accused was indicted for violation of Section 8, Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees concerning alleged failure to submit his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) for the years 2001 and 2002.
The cases were based on complaint dated May 30, 2004.
Fact-finding investigation took exactly one full year with the issuance of a resolution on May 31, 2005 ordering a preliminary investigation.
Preliminary investigation was terminated on April 14, 2006 with a recommendation dated June 14, 2006 for dismissal of the complaint.
Records showed the ruling that dismissed the complaint was signed by Graft Investigation Officer Nanette M. Austria, then Director Emilio Gonzales III and then Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Victor Fernandez.
However, on April 14, 2008– two years to the very day of terminating the preliminary investigation – the Ombudsman issued a separate resolution for the mayor’s indictment on two counts of violation of RA 6713.
The court noted that the prosecution gave no reason whatsoever about the two-year delay.
Compounding the mystery, the informations were filed only on May 5, 2009 – again “no account was given for this delay”, according to the Sandiganbayan.
“With no convincing reason advanced by the prosecution, a pattern of delay in these cases becomes evident and it is perceptibly unreasonable. In fact the Court is wondering why the informations dated April 17, 2008 were filed with the Sandiganbayan only on March 5, 2009 a matter of eleven months without any explanation,” it pointed out.