MANILA - Former Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap is now off-the-hook in one of his cases related to the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam.
The Sandiganbayan Special 6th Division dismissed Yap's two counts of malversation and two counts of graft involving former Nueva Ecija 4th District Rep. Rodolfo Antonino due to inordinate delay in the filing of the cases.
Yap, currently a representative of Bohol, was accused by the Office of the Ombudsman of signing two Memoranda of Agreement with National Agri-Business Corporation for P14.55 million worth of projects which turned out to be non-existent.
Yap has maintained innocence, saying his actions were only ministerial as allowed under the law.
“From the foregoing timeline and the totality of circumstances, a delay of seven years, two months and seven days indicates a violation of the right of the accused to a speedy disposition of his cases,” the court said in a decision penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Alex Quiroz and Geraldine Faith Econg.
The court noted that the cases, which were filed last year, started from the fact-finding investigation through a performance audit by the Commission on Audit from 2010 to 2012.
“Such period should be considered in computing the delay in the instant cases in accordance with the ruling of the Supreme Court in Torres vs. Sandiganbayan, wherein it held that the speedy disposition of cases covers not only the period within which the preliminary investigation was conducted, but also all stages to which the accused is subjected, even including fact-finding investigations conducted prior to the preliminary investigation proper,” the court said.
However, 6th Division Chair Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto dissented from the majority decision.
“The present cases are only part of several cases involving the PDAF. Considering that the Office of the Ombudsman also handles other PDAF cases, in addition to those cases not involving the PDAF, the undersigned is of the opinion that the time it took to terminate the preliminary investigation is not unreasonable,” Fernandez said.
Aside from the PDAF cases involving Antonino, Yap is also a co-accused in the PDAF cases of former Misamis Occidental 1st District Rep. Marina Clarete, as well as graft charges in connection with allegedly anomalous car loans of employees of the Philippine Rice Research Institute or PhilRice.