SC sets reckoning period for right to speedy case disposition

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 31 2018 08:01 PM

MANILA - A day before Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Samuel Martires assumes his post as the new Ombudsman, the high court handed down a ruling clearly setting the reckoning period for one’s constitutional right to a speedy disposition of cases.

The ruling states the reckoning period shall begin from the preliminary investigation of cases, not prior such as the fact-finding stage.

The voting was 7-5, with two magistrates inhibiting, said Atty. Theodore Te, Supreme Court spokesman. However, details of the Tuesday en banc session vote was not yet available, according to Te. 

The ruling will have an impact on Martires’ disposition of cases as it gives a clear picture as to what shall be considered “inordinate delay” in the resolution of cases - a ground sometimes cited in the acquittal of individuals facing criminal and/or administrative charges. 

While the case is not a ruling on the pleading filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2017, rather on a petition by one Cesar Ma. Cagang, it will have an effect on the Ombudsman’s bid.

In its plea, the Ombudsman urged the high court to clearly define “inordinate delay” as it lamented how the doctrine has caused the dismissal of cases before the Sandiganbayan. The anti-graft office also simultaneously urged the Sandiganbayan to retain its application pending a ruling from the SC. 

“While it is well-established in jurisprudence that criminal cases may be dismissed on the ground of denial of the accused’s right to speedy trial, the concept of ‘inordinate delay’ that amounts to a violation of said right has eluded exact definition,” the Ombudsman said.

The right to a speedy disposition of cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies is provided in Section 16, Article III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution.