MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has cleared Masbate Governor Antonio Kho of graft in connection with the anomalous purchase of P4.949 million worth of liquid fertilizers in 2004.
The case against Kho’s co-accused Roger Rapsing, provincial Bids and Awards Committee; and Alex Rivera and Victoria Ajero, president and area manager and collector of Hexaphil Agriventures, have also been dismissed.
Kho was accused of causing undue injury to the government after allegedly conspiring with other respondents in giving undue benefit to Hexaphil in two instances.
He allegedly approved the purchase and payment of liquid fertilizers from Hexaphil without public bidding, and despite glaring irregularities.
However, the Sandiganbayan granted Kho, Ajero and Rapsing's motions to dismiss the cases due to the Ombudsman's inordinate delay in investigating and filing the case.
The Sandiganbayan said Kho, Ajero and Rapsing's constitutional right to speedy disposition of the case was violated after the Ombudsman took five years and five months to complete the preliminary investigation before the case was elevated to the anti-graft court.
The complaint against Kho was lodged on May 11, 2011. However, the case was only filed on November 21, 2016.
"The prosecution reasoned that the reason for delay is the voluminous work of the Office of the Ombudsman, the number of accused, the number of relevant documents and the amount involved," the Sandiganbayan said.
"The Court finds these reasons put forward by prosecution implausible...the issues raised by the parties are not complex. The number of respondents in these two cases are also not that numerous to justify the length of the investigation."