MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) has affirmed the decision of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to dismiss the graft charges against 14 Philippine Air Force (PAF) officers involving P89 million in alleged "ghost deliveries" of supplies
The High Court's Third Division cited the time it took the Office of the Ombudsman to file the case before the Sandiganbayan, which violated the right of the PAF officers to a speedy disposition of their case.
The 18-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.
The Court affirmed the Sandiganbayan's resolutions issued in 2010 and 2011 dismissing the complaints against the following respondents:
The case stemmed from the letter-complaint filed by a certain Carmelita Ramirez before the Ombudsman for the Military and other Law Enforcement Officers (MOLEO), accusing the respondents of conspiring to defraud the government of P89 million through ghost deliveries of supplies.
Following its fact-finding investigation, the MOLEO discovered that based on the audit of the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ Program and Evaluation and Management Analysis Division (PEMRAD), there were indeed ghost deliveries of assorted supplies and materials at the 5th Fighter Wing Basa Air Base.
In upholding the Sandiganbayan's resolutions, the High Court noted that the investigation of the graft charges began on December 28, 1994, when the complaint was filed with the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman recommended the filing of graft charges against the respondents on April 12, 1996, but it was not until over 13 years later when it filed the information before the Sandiganbayan.
“The question therefore is – was the delay on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman vexatious, capricious and oppressive? We answer in the affirmative,” the SC ruled.
The High Court said it was not convinced by the Ombudsman justification for the delay.
“Reasoning that the Office of the Ombudsman was in the midst of transferring to a new building is a lame excuse not to have resolved the matter at the earliest opportunity,” it said.
“In addition, the prolonged investigation of the case from 1998 to 2009 by 3 Ombudsmen with divergent views as to what charges should be filed and the persons to be indicted cannot [be] sufficient justification for the unreasonable length of time it took to resolve the controversy,” the Court added.
It said that the Ombudsman, "as the institutional vanguard against corruption and bureaucracy…should create a system of accountability in order to ensure that cases before it are resolved with reasonable dispatch and to equally expose those who are responsible for its delays, as it ought to determine in this case."
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Jose Portugal Perez, Bienvenido Reyes, and Francis Jardeleza. – Rappler.com