THE Sandiganbayan has affirmed 34 pork-related cases filed against Cebu ex-Rep. Nerissa Soon-Ruiz in connection to the alleged questionable utilization of her Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations from 2007 to 2009.
The anti-graft court’s Fifth Division has junked the separate motions filed by Soon-Ruiz and her co-accused officials from government-owned or controlled corporations (GOCCs) seeking dismissal or quashal of 17 counts of graft, 10 counts of malversation through falsification of public documents, and seven counts of malversation of public funds.
Associate Justice Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac penned the 20-page resolution that sustained the prosecution’s stand that there was no inordinate delay in the investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman into transactions involving the utilization of the former lawmaker’s PDAF allocations from 2007 to 2009.
“The Court holds that there was no unreasonable, arbitrary and oppressive delay in the filing of the informations. No allegation, much less any proof, has been presented in these cases that the prosecution thereof was motivated by malice,” read the resolution, which was concurred in by Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos and Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega.
Soon-Ruiz and her co-defendants had questioned the delay in the disposition of the their cases, noting that that the formal complaint was submitted by the Field Investigation Office – Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas on February 3, 2015 but the information in these cases only reached the Sandiganbayan docket on May 3, 2019.
They had asked the court to dismiss the charges and claimed they have the constitutional right to speedy disposition of their cases.
But the Sandiganbayan ruled that inordinate delay is not a valid ground in filing a motion to quash under the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases.
“As such, the motions to quash the informations here are considered a prohibited motion,” the Sandiganbayan pointed out.
Even if treated as a ground under a motion to dismiss, the anti-graft court held that what the defendants should have filed were petitions for certiorari which is challenge based on alleged grave abuse of discretion.
“Given the magnitude of the PDAF scam, as well as the numerous respondents in all its purported transactions all over the country, the Task Force PDAF is expected to incur reasonable delays in the conduct of preliminary investigation. The State is as much entitled to due process as the accused,” the Sandiganbayan ruled.
The cases involved alleged conspiracy between the lawmaker and officials of GOCCs in implementing PDAF-funded livelihood projects by selecting dubious non-government organizations (NGOs) as project partners without conducting the required public bidding.
Graft investigators said the projects were intended for Cebu City, Mandaue City, Lapu-lapu City, and the municipalities of Cordova and Consolacion.
Prosecutors identified the GOCCs as the National Agribusiness Corporation (Nabcor), Technology Resource Center (TRC) and National Livelihood and Development Center (NLDC).
On the hand, the NGOs implicated in the cases were the Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI), Gabaymasa Development Foundation Inc (GDFI), and Gabay at Pag-asa and Masa Foundation Inc (GPMFI).