July 17, 2018, 6:52 pm
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Former DA Region 7 director walks on corruption raps

THE Sandiganbayan has junked the government’s attempt to revive graft charges it filed last year against former Department of Agriculture Regional Field Unit 7 executive director Eduardo B. Lecciones Jr.

In a resolution dated April 20, the anti-graft court’s Fifth Division affirmed its March 6, 2017 ruling that ordered the cases against Lecciones dismissed because it violated his right to speedy disposition of his cases.

“The consideration of the circumstances is precisely …to determine if there has been a violation of the accused’s right. After examining such factors, the Court found that there was an inordinate delay that was capricious, vexatious, and oppressive,” the Sandiganbayan said.

Lecciones was named co-defendant of former Cebu Reps. Antonio V. Cuenco and Antonio P. Yapha Jr. in two graft charges alleging misuse of the former lawmaker’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations in 2004 totaling P6 million.

The Ombudsman said the lawmakers were direct participants in a fraudulent transaction because they endorsed an “ineligible and unqualified non-government organization” – the Kasosyo Foundation Inc. - to implement their farmer-assistance projects.

Without undergoing the required public bidding, the NGO cornered the projects for the distribution of farm inputs in the form of 4,000 bottles of liquid fertilizer purchased at P1,500 per bottle that graft investigators and government auditors said were grossly overpriced.

The cases, however, did not even go to trial after the court granted the defendant’s motions to dismiss, citing the failure of the Ombudsman to conclude its investigations within a reasonable time, noting that the it took 10 years and six months from the time the fact-finding investigation started in February 2006 to the filing of the information before the court on August 24, 2016.

The Sandiganbayan found merit in the defense’s argument that at their advanced age, none of the three defendants can reasonably be expected to put up a proper defense.

Yapha is already 79 years old, Cuenco is 80, while Lecciones is 73, having retired from government service eight years ago when he turned 65.

“Advanced age is a circumstance that is considered in (determining) prejudice to the accused. It appears that accused Lecciones is also at an advanced age. Considering the length of time this case took, the difficulty of mounting a proper defense, based on accurate recollection of events and possession of relevant evidence, is an evident reality,” the court said. 
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