Sandiganbayan junks raps vs. accused in fertilizer fund scam

MANILA For the unresonable delay in trying the charges, the Sandiganbayan has dismissed the criminal cases against a staff member of Leyte Rep. Jose Carlos Cari accused in the alleged PHP2.94-million fertilizer fund scam in 2004.

The anti-graft court's Second Division decision, penned by Associated Justice Lorifel Pahimna, granted the motion to dismiss the graft and malversation cases against Marilyn Castillo, Cari's administrative staff for the inordinate delay in trying the cases.

Wherefore, premises considered the Court resolves to grant the motion to dismiss dated May 7, 2018 on the ground of violation of constitution rights of the accused to speedy disposition of cases thereby dismissing criminal cases SB-17-CRM-1491 to 1492 SB-17-CRM-1493-1494 as against accused Marilyn Castillo," the Sandiganbayan resolution dated Sept. 6, 2018 read.

Castillo was a co-accused of Cari and Baybay City Mayor Carmen Cari, whose cases were also dismissed by the Sandiganbayan last Dec. 20, 2017 on the ground of inordinate delay.

Aside from Castillo, named accused in the cases were Evelinda Opus, Paquita Austero, Leo Caneda and Mary Jane Fabian.

The Ombudsman charged the Caris for allegedly giving unwarranted benefits to Castle Rock Construction in the PHP2.94-million procurement of 600 gallons of Florida Green fertilizer without public bidding in 2004.

However, in their motion to dismiss, the accused argued that the cases were filed almost 11 years since the cases were investigated by the Ombudsman's Task Force Abono at the height of the fertilizer fund scam issue.

The Ombudsman ordered the alleged PHP728-million fertilizer fund scam investigated in 2006.

The complaint was filed against the Caris in 2012, however, the cases against them were filed before the Sandiganbayan only in August 2017.

The Sandiganbayan noted that the Ombudsman raised the paramount importance of the state's right to pursue criminal cases in opposing the motion.

However, in the present cases, accused stood at a disadvantage as they can no longer adequately defend themselves due to unavailability of witnesses and the absence of documentary evidence imperative for their defense, the Sandiganbayan said.

The Sandiganbayan insisted that the 11-year fact-finding and preliminary investigation of the Ombudsman remained unjustified." (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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