Manila – The Supreme Court (SC) has reversed an earlier ruling by the Sandiganbayan in relation to the graft charges filed against Sen. Lito Lapid and three others over the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.
In a decision that was made public yesterday, the SC’s second division reinstated the cases against Lapid, Ma. Victoria Aquino-Abubakar, Leolita Aquino, and Dexter Alexander S.D. Vasquez “with reasonable dispatch.”
The High Court added the Sandiganbayan has gravely abused its discretion when it dismissed the case against Lapid and other fellow respondents supposedly due to inordinate delay.
“In sum, delay becomes inordinate only in the presence of arbitrary, vexatious and oppressive actions or inactions that are discernible from the proceedings,” the SC said.
“No such delay attended the Ombudsman’s proceedings that would warrant the dismissal of the criminal case against herein respondents,” it added.
The SC said the respondents were recommended indicted in 2013, a resolution the Ombudsman approved on June 2014. The respondents filed motions for reconsideration and were charged in court only on Nov. 4, 2015.
Lapid and three others have been slapped with graft charges in 2015 for buying P4.761 million worth of liquid fertilizers without public bidding.
Just months after the case was filed, the Sandiganbayan found that it violated the defendants’ right to the speedy disposition of cases and dismissed it, prompting the Office of the Ombudsman to take the case to the High Court./PN