Sandiganbayan junks fertilizer fund scam charges vs Leyte officials for 'inordinate delay'

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 30 2018 02:51 PM | Updated as of Jan 30 2018 02:52 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 2nd Division has dismissed graft and malversation cases against Leyte 5th District Rep. Jose Carlos Cari and his mother Baybay City Mayor Carmen Cari in connection with an allegedly anomalous fertilizer procurement in 2004, citing inordinate delay.

In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Lorifel Pahimna, the anti-graft court granted the Caris' manifestation to dismiss the charges "on the ground of violation of the constitutional right of the accused to speedy disposition of cases." 

The Office of the Ombudsman had charged Jose Carlos Cari, then the city mayor, and Carmen Cari, then the Representative, for allegedly giving unwarranted benefits to Castle Rock Construction in the P2.94-million procurement of 600 gallons of Florida Green fertilizer without public bidding in 2004.

The accused, however, argued in their motion to dismiss that the cases were filed almost 11 years since the cases were investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman's Task Force Abono at the height of the fertilizer fund scam issue.

The Office of the Ombudsman had ordered the alleged P728-million anomaly investigated in 2006. A complaint was filed against the mother and son in 2012, but the cases against them were elevated to the Sandiganbayan only in August last year. 

The court noted that the Ombudsman raised the “paramount importance of the state’s right to pursue criminal cases” in opposing the motion. 

Still, it gave weight to the delay. 

“However, in the present cases, accused stood at a disadvantage as they can no longer adequately defend themselves due to unavailability of witnesses and the absence of documentary evidence imperative for their defense,” the court said. 

The court insisted that the 11-year fact-finding and preliminary investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman “remained unjustified."

In 2016, the Office of the Ombudsman also junked a case against another individual tagged in the scam, citing the delay in bringing the case to court.