By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Leyte Governor and Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Carlos Jericho “Icot” Petilla has been cleared by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division of his graft charge due to the violation of his right to speedy disposition of case.
Petilla was earlier charged for violating Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act due to the reportedly anomalous purchase of 350 gallons of Florida Green Foliar Liquid Fertilizer at P5,000 per gallon on December 28, 2004.
Petilla argued in his motion to quash that the complaint against him was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman on June 21, 2013 – nine years, one month and 26 days away from the signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) regarding the procurement.
The charge sheet reached the Sandiganbayan only on April 6, 2018, so he lamented the fact that it took the Ombudsman around 12 years, two months and 12 days from the creation of Task Force Abono just to file the Information before the anti-graft court.
For its part, the Sandiganbayan found Petilla’s motion impressed with merit. However, the anti-graft court stated in its ruling that the reckoning period from the filing of the complaint on June 21, 2013 to the filing of the Information before the Sandiganbayan only took four years, nine months and 16 days.
While the prosecution reasoned that it was the accused who caused the delay in the issuance of the resolution, the Sandiganbayan was not convinced. “The Office of the Ombudsman has the constitutional mandate to ‘act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the government.’ It should be strict with regard to the period for filing of the pleadings before it, in accordance with its Rules of Procedure,” the resolution read.
The anti-graft court added that the prosecution failed to prove that the delay was reasonable, and it believes that the defense of the accused was impaired due to inordinate delay.
“The Court will not countenance the unfair consequences brought upon the accused because of the inordinate delay in the preliminary investigation before the Ombudsman that violated their right to speedy disposition of these cases. The Court has no other alternative but to dismiss the cases against the accused-movants,” the resolution added.
Petilla’s mother, former Leyte Gov. Remedios Petilla, was also cleared of her graft charge alongside assistant provincial treasurer Rodolfo Badiable, and Castle Rock Construction representative Marilyn Castillo.
For Remedios’ charge, she was accused of giving unwarranted benefits to Castle Rock back on May 3, 2004 when the province purchased 350 gallons of Florida Green Foliar Liquid Fertilizer at P5,000 per gallon.