Graft raps vs. ex-Muntinlupa mayor junked

MANILA-- The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft charges filed against former Muntinlupa City Mayor Aldrin San Pedro due to delays in the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman), which already lasted for more than seven years.

In a 13-page resolution written by Associate Justice Frederick Musngi and promulgated by the Sandiganbayan Second Division, it said that San Pedro and his co-accused's right to speedy disposition of cases was violated due to the prosecution's request for a 60-day reinvestigation of the case.

The anti-graft court denied the urgent motion of the prosecution and dismissed the charges of the respondents.

"The passage of time in the conduct of the investigations weakens the defense of the accused. In this case, inordinate delay has already caused tactical disadvantage in the preparation of accused's defense," the Sandiganbayan said in its resolution.

The case against San Pedro and 11 others arose from the alleged anomalous purchase of 40,000 trolley bags in 2008 amounting to PHP22 million, which were supposed to be distributed to elementary students in the city's public schools.

In the information of the case, the items were procured from a private company without holding a public bidding.

The Ombudsman said that the procurement was also not included in the city's 2008 Annual Procurement Plan.

In its resolution, the anti-graft court said that the prosecution "had been remiss in its duty to prosecute the case without reasonable dispatch."

It noted that there were already findings from the Commission on Audit (COA) regarding the alleged irregularities of the procurement of trolley bags in 2008, which was later submitted to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of Muntinlupa City.

The Sandiganbayan said that the complaint against San Pedro before the Ombudsman was only filed on May 9, 2012, while the case was filed before the Sandiganbayan on Nov. 4, 2015.

"The prosecution already had more than three years within which to gather all evidence necessary to determine what and whom to indict had it exercised resonable diligence in the performance of its duty," it said.

"It is the duty of the Ombudsman to act with reasonable dispatch on the cases entrusted to it, otherwise, the passage of time in the conduct of the investigation may be prejudicial to the accused," the Sandiganbayan added.

Source: Philippine News Agency