MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 5th Division has dismissed the case of former Janet Lim Napoles employee and pork barrel scam state witness Marina Sula in her fertilizer fund scam case with former Palawan governor Joel Reyes.
The court dismissed the case of Sula on the basis of inordinate delay, the same reason why Reyes, and other accused individuals, namely Rodolfo Guieb and Dennis Araullo, also got off the hook.
The last one who remains in the case is Nathaniel Tan, also a former employee of Napoles, who already died, according to Sula.
In its resolution, the court noted that the prosecution claimed that the preliminary investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman commenced in 2011 and terminated in 2016, when the case was filed in Court.
The court however pointed out that the entire proceedings before the Office of the Ombudsman took almost twelve years in total.
“For large stretches of time, most notably from August 24, 2011 to April 4, 2014, the case languished with the Ombudsman. As accused Guieb pointed out in his Reply, it took the Ombudsman eight months to even order Araullo to file his counter-affidavit. From the foregoing, by itself, the time that this case spend pending preliminary investigation with the Ombudsman already reeks of inordinate delay,” the court said in its resolution penned by Associate Justice Rafael Lagos with the concurrence of Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
Sula was accused by the Office of the Ombudsman as a private individual and officer of Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. which received unwarranted benefits from the government through a fertilizer contract worth P3.25 million pesos.
The Ombudsman said the contract did not go through public bidding and MAMFI was not an accredited NGO.
The court asked the prosecution if they will still be filing a motion for reconsideration on the dismissal of the case against Sula, who is being utilized by the prosecution as a state witness in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam cases involving Napoles and lawmakers.
“As a matter of policy, yes, your honor,” Prosecutor Peter Boco told the court.
The court however said that the dismissal of the criminal case against Sula does not necessarily mean that she is entirely exonerated from civil liability.
“Hence, applying the ruling in Coscoluella, althouth the criminal liability of the accused may be considered extinguished with the dismissal of these cases, the prosecution may still go after her, as regards her civil liability that may arise from the alleged offense,” the court said.