“It’s been a long 12 years and I will be happy to see this sad episode come to an end.”
That was the reaction of former Negros Occidental Gov. Rafael “Lito” Coscolluela yesterday to the DAILY STAR headline story Saturday on the order of the Supreme Court Second Division for the Sandiganbayan to dismiss a criminal case filed against him and three others because of the violation of their Constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases.
In its 12-page decision promulgated July 15, the SC included in the dismissal of the case Dr. Ernesto Malvas - former Negros Occidental Provincial Health officer, Edwin Nacionales - former Special Projects Division head, and his subordinate, Jose Ma. Amugod.
Coscolluela had served as governor of Negros Occidental for three full terms that ended on June 30, 2001.
Coscolluela said he has not received a copy of the SC decision yet and has to wait for the Sandiganbayan to comply with the order.
“We have always been prepared to defend our innocence even as we respected the accusers’ right to seek redress as they saw fit,” he said.
On November 9, 2001, the Office of the Ombudsman for the Visayas received a letter-complaint from the People’s Graftwatch, requesting the investigation of the alleged anomalous purchase of medical and agricultural equipment for the province of Negros Occidental worth P20 million.
However, it was only on June 19, 2009 that the information was filed before the Sandiganbayan, the SC noted.
The SC, in its decision, said that, in “view of the unjustified length of time miring the Office of the Ombudsman’s resolution of the case as well as the concomitant prejudice that the delay in this case has caused, it is undeniable that petitioners’ constitutional right to due process and speedy disposition of cases had been violated.”
“As the institutional vanguard against corruption and bureaucracy, the Office of the Ombudsman should create a system of accountability in order to ensure that cases before it are resolved with reasonable dispatch and to equally expose those who are responsible for its delays, as it ought to determine in this case,” the SC said.*CPG