Sandiganbayan slams Ombudsman for case delays

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Sandiganbayan slams Ombudsman for case delays
In a resolution, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang asks the Ombudsman to address the problem

MANILA, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan criticized the Ombudsman for “inordinate delays” which, the anti-graft court said, have forced them to dismiss some cases. 

In a resolution issued on November 14, Sandiganbayan presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang asked the Ombudsman to do something about the delay, which was described as “deplorable” and “grossly offends the right of public justice.”

Although the Sandiganbayan did not lay the blame on the present leadership of the Office of the Ombudsman, the anti-graft court said the body must address the problem. 

Tan took note of a graft case against former Philippine National Bank-Cebu vice president Cayetano Tejano Jr, which has been pending for 22 years. 

Tejano was accused of allowing V and G Better Homes Subdivision to withdraw P2.2 million from the bank even if the company’s savings account did not contain such an amount. 

The complaint was filed on October 15, 1992. Former Ombudsman Conrado Vasquez released the indictment order two years later. 

On April 20, 1995, the Sandiganbayan approved Tejano’s motion for a reinvestigation, causing further delays in the proceedings. Ten years later – on June 30, 2005 – the Supreme Court directed the Ombudsman to complete the probe. 

It took the Ombudsman another 8 years to comply with the Supreme Court directive, Tang noted. The resolution said the Sandiganbayan “failed to find any sensible reason” for the delay since the determination of probable cause took only two years to finish. Besides, the issue of “unfunded withdrawal” did not require complicated technical expertise, the resolution noted. 

“The court painstakingly examined the record of this case and found no special circumstance/s which would justify this considerable time spent. The court also notes that the Office of the Ombudsman has offered nary an explanation,” the resolution said. 

There’s another point of view, however.

At a forum in January this year, former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo said the bottleneck is in the Sandiganbayan.

Marcelo recalled that in 2002, it took an average of 6.6 years for the Sandiganbayan to complete a case – from the filing of charges to the release of a verdict. Today, he added, it now takes an average of 10.2 years to process cases against government officials.

Marcelo, who served as Ombudsman from 2002 to 2005 under the Arroyo administration, said fixing the bottleneck in the Sandiganbayan is a key component in the war against corruption.

“Even if Justice (Conchita Carpio) Morales can create a perfect Ombudsman’s office, she will not be able to suppress corruption because of the Sandiganbayan. Right now, that’s where the bottleneck is,” Marcelo said then. –

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