The Sandiganbayan 5th Division dismissed the graft case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against former Palawan Governor Mario Joel Reyes due to "inordinate delay."
The court granted the motion to dismiss filed by Reyes on the ground that his right to speedy disposition of cases was violated because of the prolonged investigation of the Ombudsman.
Reyes took off from an earlier decision of the court which granted the motion to dismiss of his co-accused, Rodolfo Guieb and Dennis Araullo, also on inordinate delay grounds.
The court noted that the fact-finding by the Task Force Abono of the Field Investigation Office of the Office of the Ombudsman started in 2004. The complaint was then filed by the Task Force on May 2, 2011 within the Office of the Ombudsman and eventually landed in the Sandiganbayan on September 14, 2016.
"As it appears to this court, the long stretch of time that constitutes the delay happened for the benefit of the Office of the Ombudsman for their layers of review and ordinary processes of justice, and not the accused," the court said.
The Sandiganbayan also noted that the multi-million peso fertilizer fund scam charge against Reyes, occurred more than a decade ago.
"The prejudice caused by the prolonged pendency of this case cannot be belittled considering that the events that gave rise to the charges transpired almost twelve years ago," the court said.
The prosecution, however, argued that their investigation of the case only started in 2011.
"The preliminary investigation of the case only started from the time Task Force Abono filed a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman Central Records Division on May 2, 2011 and not at the time the fact-finding was started by Task Force Abono in 2004," the prosecution said.
The Sandiganbayan, however, noted that the dismissal of the case does not necessarily mean Reyes is exonerated from civil liability.