No P7-M graft case vs Cerilles due to Ombudsman inaction

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Because it takes the Office of the Ombudsman 8 years to file the graft case involving the purchase of medical supplies, the Sandiganbayan dismisses it

Former Zamboanga del Sur governor, and now congresswoman, Aurora Cerilles. Photo from the National Dairy Authority website

MANILA, Philippines – When the Zamboanga del Sur Representative Aurora Cerilles was governor of her province in 2001, she was accused of approving an irregular purchase of medical supplies worth P6.88 million.

She did not – and will not – get to answer for that, however. The anti-graft court has dismissed the case filed against her and two others because of “inordinate delay” on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Samuel Martires, the third division of the Sandiganbayan pointed out that it took the Ombudsman 8 years to resolve the complaint, thus violating the defendants’ right to due process.

The Ombudsman received the complaint in 2004. By July 2006, then Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez approved a resolution recommending the filing of a graft case against Cerilles and private defendants Rey Morgada and Neil Cruz, both representatives of U-Net Distributors Corporation, the supplier that bagged the contract.

It was, however, only in July 2012 that the Ombudsman filed the case with the Sandiganbayan.

“It baffles this court why no Information was filed until then Ombudsman Gutierrez resigned from office. More baffling is the second wave of reviews to which the resolution…was subjected until it was approved finally by the present Ombudsman Carpio-Morales six years later,” the Sandiganbayan noted.

The court said the conduct of a second review resulted in a “long and unwarranted delay” that gave the defendants a way to question the validity of the case.

“…Jurisprudence has taught us that such length of time constitutes inordinate delay which is violative of accused Cerilles’ right to due process and warrants the dismissal of the herein cases,” the ruling said.

Prosecutors had cited the findings of state auditors that hospital supplies were purchased without public bidding when they were common products that other suppliers could provide.

Auditors said the provincial government could have saved more than P1,204,755 on hospital scrub suit, flat sheet, draw sheet, and abdominal bandage if these were not procured from U-Net. – 

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