Sandiganbayan junks SALN cases vs Aklan governor, wife over 'inordinate delay'

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 20 2018 02:12 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has dismissed several cases for undeclared assets against Aklan Gov. Florencio Miraflores and his wife, former Ibajay Mayor Maria Lourdes Miraflores, as it cited delays in the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman. 

The anti-graft court's Special 2nd Division dismissed four cases against the governor and three against his wife that were filed for alleged violation of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. 

The couple was accused of failure to declare properties in their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth from 2006 to 2009 for the governor and 2007 to 2009 for his wife. 

The court noted that the Ombudsman's preliminary investigation took 3 years before the cases were filed at the Sandiganbayan. 

On top of this, the couple cited that the Office of the Ombudsman's Field Investigation Office had spent 7 years in its fact-finding investigation. 

The prosecution contended that during the 7-year period, “there is no case to speak of” so it should not be considered in the determination of inordinate delay.

But the court said just the 3-year preliminary investigation already constitutes inordinate delay. 

“Even if the period that the Office of the Ombudsman spent in the conduct of its fact-finding investigation were not included in the computation, the delay of more than three years just for the determination of probable cause constitutes inordinate delay,” the court said in the resolution penned by Associate Justice Michael Frederick Musngi, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Alex Quiroz, Reynaldo Cruz and Lorifel Pahimna.

The anti-graft court also reiterated that the Rules of Court prescribes a 45-day period for the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation on criminal complaints. 

“A pending and prolonged disposition of a case against the accused causes anxiety, hostility, additional expenses, and restriction on their respective person and well-being,” the court said. 

Division Chairperson Oscar Herrera, however, said in his dissenting opinion that “very clearly, there was no inordinate delay in the investigation of the cases.”