MANILA, Philippines - Sorsogon Provincial Governor Raul Lee has invoked “inordinate delay” in 2 graft charges filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman last April 7, saying the same ground has been upheld by the Supreme Court as sufficient basis for the dismissal of a criminal case.
In an 8-page motion filed May 4, Lee said that the complaint was filed with the Ombudsman on March 30, 2006 and he and his co-defendants submitted their counter-affidavits on May 18, 2006.
Two and a half years passed before the resolution for their indictment on graft charges was drafted on November 24, 2008 by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Judy Anne Doctor-Escalona.
Another 2 years and 4 months passed before Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando C. Casimiro approved Escalona’s recommendation for the filing of criminal informations.
“(T)he inordinate delay of more than 5 years by the Office of the Ombudsman in resolving the criminal complaints against the herein accused Lee is violative of his constitutionally guaranteed right to due process and to a speedy disposition of the cases filed against him,” defense lawyer Restituto J. Vejerano said.
The defense noted that in the 1988 case of Tatad vs. Sandiganbayan, the Supreme Court ordered 5 criminal cases against the former Senator dismissed because the Ombudsman took three years to terminate its investigation and come up with indictments.
In the 1997 case of Anchangco Jr. vs. Ombudsman, the High Court likewise threw out criminal complaints against the petitioner because of “inordinate delay of more than six years” wherein the Ombudsman failed to resolve the case.
A 1998 decision in the case of Duterte vs. Sandiganbayan was also invoked wherein the SC ordered dismissed charges filed against the accused saying the Ombudsman was guilty of “inordinate delay” in conducting its preliminary investigation for a period of four and a half years from the filing of the complaint in August 1991.
Vejerano also questioned the validity of the cases against Lee because it was Casimiro who approved the resolution for indictment instead of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez.
“(A)t the time Overall Deputy Ombudsman Casimiro approved the filing of the instant informations, Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez was not on a temporary absence or disabled to perform her duties. Hence, we respectfully submit that the Overall Deputy Ombudsman cannot perform the duties of Ombudsman such as approving the filing of the instant informations before this Honorable Court,” the defense lawyer said.
Lee was charged for allegedly causing undue injury to the government along with provincial accountant Raul G. Hernandez and provincial treasurer Ofelia D. Velasco in connection with the purchase of 2,133 liters of overpriced fertilizer from supplier Feshan Philippines Inc. in 2004.
Investigators said the defendants allowed the procurement of Bio Nature Liquid Fertilizer at P1,500 per liter even if there were comparable liquid fertilizers in the market at only P180 per liter.
The cases against Lee and co-defendants stemmed from a complaint filed by Sorsogon provincial board member Rebecca de leon Aquino.