Sandiganyan junks graft raps vs. ex-Muntinlupa mayor San Pedro
The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft charges against former Muntinlupa City mayor Aldrin San Pedro due to delays in the investigations of the Ombudsman, which already lasted for more than seven years.
In a 13-page resolution promulgated by the Second Division, the anti-graft court said 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.
Associate Justice Frederick Musngi, who penned the resolution, denied the urgent motion of the prosecution and junked 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 ruling read.
The case against San Pedro and 11 others stemmed from the alleged anomalous purchase of 40,000 trolley bags in 2008 amounting to P22 million, supposed to be distributed to elementary students in the city's public schools.
Based on the information of the case filed by the Ombudsman in November last year, the items were procured from a private company without holding a public bidding. The Ombudsman said the procurement was also not included in the city’s 2008 Annual Procurement Plan.
The Sandiganyan resolution, meanwhile, said the prosecution "had been remiss in its duty to prosecute the case without with reasonable dispatch."
The anti-graft court noted that there were already findings from the Commission on Audit regarding the alleged irregularities of the procurement of trolley bags in 2008, which was later submitted to the Bids and Awards Committee of Muntinlupa.
However, the Sandiganbayan said the complaint against San Pedro before the Office of the Ombudsman was only filed on May 9, 2012, while the case was filed before the Sandiganbayan on November 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 resolution added.
San Pedro lost to incumbent Mayor Jaime Fresnedi when he sought for re-election during last year's elections. —KBK, GMA News