SC dismisses 3 graft cases vs. NCot Guv CatamcoPosted on
DAVAO CITY — The Supreme Court dismissed three (3) criminal charges filed by the Sandiganbayan against businesswoman Nancy Catamco, who was elected North Cotabato Governor in the 2019 elections, citing violations to her Constitutional rights to speedy disposition of cases.
In a 10-page decision rendered by Supreme Court Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin A. Caguioa, which was concurred by four other Associate Justices and duly certified by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta, it states “The Sandiganbayan is ordered to DISMISS Criminal Case No. SB-18-CRM0337, SB-18-CRM-0338, and SB-18-CRM-0339 for violation of petitioners Constitutional rights to speedy disposition of cases”.
The order was handed down on July 28, 2020, but was released only last Monday, September 28, 2020.
In an interview with Newsline.ph, Catamco said, “I am very happy because I am vindicated”.
In her Facebook Page, Catamco expressed “A great news! I am vindicated! Justice has triumphed as the trumped-up case filed against me years ago has just been trashed by no less than the Supreme Court of the Philippines”.
The case against Catamco stemmed from a fertilizer deal involving a P5-million fertilizer deal with the local government of Poro, Cebu Province in 2004.
The Sandiganbayan filed charged against her and erstwhile husband Pompey Perez.
In her statement, Catamco stressed “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
Catamco and Perez have moved for the dismissal of malversation charges against them claiming that the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay of more than 12 years, from the conduct of its investigation in 2006 until the filing of the information in court, violated their constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases.
The Supreme Court Annulled and Set Aside the resolution of Sandiganbayan, dated August 7, 2019, which 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 SC said. It took the Ombudsman almost five years to complete the preliminary investigation in this 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 involved one transaction, the Poro local government awarded a contract on May 2004 for Perzebros company owned by Catamco and Perez to supply 3,333 bottles of liquid fertilizers.
The high court cited that 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 the decision, the Supreme Court stressed “The Court is left with no choice but to consider the prosecution’s failure to prove sufficient justification for the delay. 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”.
The ruling was signed by Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa and concurred by Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta and Associate Justices Jose C. Reyes Jr and Amy C. Lazaro-Javier which was affirmed by Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta.
Catamco’s political rival used the issue against her during the elections but the people of her province stood by her to victory.-Editha Z. Caduaya/Newsline.ph