Negros Oriental gov hits Ombudsman for delay in corruption case

Lian Buan
Negros Oriental gov hits Ombudsman for delay in corruption case
The doctrine of inordinate delay is used by respondents to seek the dismissal of their charges

MANILA, Philippines – Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo is pulling all the stops to have his corruption cases dropped. 

After filing a graft complaint against Ombudsman officials before the Department of Justice (DOJ), Degamo is now seeking a dismissal of his charges before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan because of supposed inordinate delay.

Degamo is facing 11 counts of malversation and one count of graft for his misuse of calamity funds in 2012. Degamo is accused of proceeding with funding P143 million worth of infrastructure projects even after the budget department disallowed it because of non-compliance to guidelines.

Degamo on Thursday, March 30, filed a motion before the anti-graft court seeking to dismiss his charges for inordinate delay in the Ombudsman’s investigation.

According to Degamo, the complaint against him was filed before the Ombudsman in October 2013 but that the Ombudsman only finished investigation in May 2016.

He was indicted in January 2017 and subsequently posted P1.1 million bail that same month.

“The Office of the Ombudsman took its own sweet time to terminate the preliminary investigation and lodge the information in court, unmindful of the fact that in the interim, accused had to endure the agony of an uncertain future, akin to having the proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over their heads,” Degamo said in his motion.

Section 16, Article III of the Constitution affords the accused the right to a “speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies.”

Several Supreme Court (SC) rulings have also affirmed that a case may be dismissed if there was inordinate delay, which can be determined by 4 factors: length of delay, reasons for the delay, assertion of failure to assert such right by the accused, and the prejudice caused by the delay.

The doctrine of inordinate delay has been used by respondents to have their charges dropped. 

The Sandiganbayan has ruled on these cases on a case-to-case basis. In February of this year alone, the Sandiganbayan approved an inordinate delay charge by a respondent, but thumbed down the same appeal of another.

It dismissed the graft charge against former Surigao del Sur representative Jesnar Falcon and his son Peter Paul Jed Falcon due to inordinate delay by the Ombudsman, but affirmed the charges against  former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos S,  saying there was no inordinate delay.

According to Degamo, he diligently cooperated with the preliminary investigation and filed all that was required of him within the prescribed period.

“There was nothing extraordinary in this case that would justify almost 3 years of preliminary investigation,” Degamo said.

Degamo has been dismissed twice over the same offense but in as many times secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals (CA).

On Wednesday, March 29, he sought the help of the DOJ to investigate what he said was “manifest partiality” on the part of the Ombudsman when it proceeded with the cases against him even though he should have been absolved by virtue of the now-abolished Aguinaldo doctrine. – 

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.