Wednesday Oct, 21 2020 03:56:38 PM

SC clears NoCot guv, ex-hubby of criminal charges

Local News • 06:15 AM Wed Sep 30, 2020
Edwin O. Fernandez
CLEARED. North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco (center) receives the news about the dismissal of the 2004 graft and malversation case filed against her and ex-husband Pompey Perez while presiding over a meeting of the Provincial Development Council in Kid

COTABATO CITY – North Cotabato Governor Nancy Catamco on Tuesday said she felt vindicated by the Supreme Court ruling dismissing the criminal charges filed against her and her former husband, Pompey Perez, over the alleged misuse of PHP5-million fertilizer funds by the local government of Poro in Cebu province in 2004.

“Justice has triumphed as the trumped-up case filed against me years ago has just been trashed by no less than the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines,” Catamco said in a statement.

“I'm ecstatic and overjoyed by this development as my case has even contributed to the rich annals of jurisprudence, especially in the meaning and concept of the right to speedy disposition of cases. I feel grateful for this gift,” she added.

In a 10-page decision made public on Sept. 22, the SC First Division cited the Office of the Ombudsman’s clear violation of the Perez and Catamco’s constitutional rights to the speedy disposition of their cases.

Catamco and Perez have moved for the dismissal of the malversation charges against them, claiming that the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay of more than 12 years, from its investigation in 2006 until the filing of the information in court, violated their constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases.

The high court has annulled the resolution of the Sandiganbayan, dated August 7, 2019, that denied Perez and Catamco’s motion to dismiss and cleared the way for their trial for graft and malversation.

The Ombudsman’s claim that the fertilizer fund scam involved “voluminous records” failed to justify the delay of five years, the High Court said.

It took the Ombudsman almost five years to complete the preliminary investigation of the case from the time the petitioners were ordered to file their counter-affidavits on July 19, 2013, until the corresponding information was filed before the Sandiganbayan on April 27, 2018.

The Supreme Court said that the case only involves one transaction – the Poro local government awarded a contract on May 2004 for Perzebros owned by couple Catamco and Perez to supply 3,333 bottles of liquid fertilizers.

The SC also said the Ombudsman’s reliance on the findings and previous issuances of the Commission on Audit (COA) showed that the case was actually “simple, straightforward and easily determinable” and should not have delayed for five years.

The case against Perez and Catamco stemmed from alleged questionable transactions because of lack of public bidding and because Perzebros was a company that is only incorporated two months earlier to win a supply contract.

In its decision, the SC said “the Court finds that the petitioners timely asserted their rights at the earliest possible time. In their motion for reconsideration of the Ombudsman’s resolution finding probable cause, petitioners already invoked their right to speedy disposition of cases.”

It added: “The Court is left with no choice but to consider the prosecution’s failure to prove sufficient justification for the delay. And in view of petitioners’ timely invocation of their right to speedy disposition of cases, it is quite evident that the Sandiganbayan committed grave abuse of discretion in denying the motions to dismiss the case.” (PNA)

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