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Sandiganbayan dismisses graft case of Iloilo vice mayor due to inordinate delay

GMA News Online logo GMA News Online 6/13/2018 Galarpe, Karen
Sandiganbayan © GMA News Sandiganbayan

The Sandiganbayan granted the appeal of the vice mayor of Dingle, Iloilo to dismiss due to inordinate delay his graft case over the alleged favors granted to the construction business of his wife.

A resolution dated May 28 from the First Division ordered the dismissal of four counts of violation of Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act against Vice Mayor Rufino Palabrica III.

Palabrica, then serving as municipal mayor, allegedly intervened in the awarding of a P5.36-million contract which was entered into by the local government with Tri-B Marketing from 2007 to 2009.

Tri-B is owned by his wife, Theresa Palabrica, but was registered under the name of her dummy Eden Castañeda, according to the Ombudsman investigation.

The contract was for the concreting, rip-rapping, widening and construction of the drainage system on Espino Street, and construction of the drainage on Aportadera Street worth P1.89 million in December 2007 and the concreting of a portion of Pototan-Dingle Road worth P1.79 million in September 2008.

The local government also awarded to Tri-B the project of concreting the Camambugan-Caguyuman Barangay Road amounting to P733,794 in February and the construction of a home technology building at Rufino Palabrica Sr. National High School worth P953,271.64 in March 2009.

Palabrica had argued that his right to a speedy disposition of cases was violated when it took the Ombudsman nine years to indict him at the Sandiganbayan when the complaint was filed in 2009.

He said the delay impaired his defense since the members of the Bids and Awards Committee then had either retired or are already deceased, while he is unsure if Castañeda is still available to testify.

The Sandiganbayan agreed with Palabrica and said the eight-year preliminary investigation of the Ombudsman, which revolved around finding documents on Castañeda’s financial capacity, is “unjustifiably longer than necessary.”

“Suffice it to state that the instant cases do not involve complicated issues and voluminous documents as would justify the preliminary investigation of nearly nine years,” the Sandiganbayan said.

The anti-graft court also ordered the lifting of the hold departure order against Palabrica and the release of his bail bond.

Division chairperson Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz penned the resolution, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona. —KG, GMA News

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