By Czarina Nicole Ong-Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has junked the malversation charge filed against former Labangan Mayor Wilson Nandang of Zamboanga Del Sur due to the violation of his right to speedy disposition of the case.
He was charged with a violation of Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, otherwise known as Malversation, since he received his salary for the period of August 1 to 10, 2011 even though he was under preventive suspension at the time.
Nandang filed a motion to dismiss before the anti-graft court and argued that his right to speedy disposition of cases has been violated since it took the Office of the Ombudsman four years and two months just to conclude the preliminary investigation of the case.
Nandang said the issues that had to be addressed by the Ombudsman were not complicated enough to justify the delay. At the same time, Nandang said that the Ombudsman “failed to acknowledge that the preventive suspension meted out in his case was not under the Civil Service Law or the Ombudsman Law, but under the Local Government Code of 1991.”
Under Section 64 of the LGC, a preventively suspended officer is still entitled to payment of full salary or compensation.
In its ruling, the anti-graft court said that the time conducted on the preliminary investigation is actually little over five years and eight months, counted from the time the complaint was received by the Ombudsman on October 19, 2011, until the filing of the Information before the Sandiganbayan on July 14, 2017.
From that period, the Ombudsman had a “lull of one year and one month in the proceedings where nothing was done relating to the case,” the resolution read.
The prosecution tried to reason that the delay was reasonable and necessary, especially since the records of the case had to be transferred from their Mindanao office to the Main Office in Metro Manila.
However, the anti-graft court said the records do not support their claim. “Regardless of the time it might have taken to transmit the records of this case, there were only two respondents before the Ombudsman, and the charge is only for a single count of malversation,” the resolution stated.
“In other words, the case did not involve a complex or novel issue that would have justified the number of years it took the Ombudsman to resolve,” it added.
The eight-page resolution was signed by Fourth Division Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justices Reynaldo Cruz and Bayani Jacinto.