Feb 17, 2021 @ 11:43

Sandiganbayan allows prosecutors to change Desembrana case to graft

After five years of delay, the Sandiganbayan has allowed Ombudsman prosecutors to withdraw the bribery charge against Assistant City Prosecutor Raul Desembrana, so they could replace it with a graft case.

In a recent 5-page resolution, the court’s 4th Division granted the compliance with motion for withdrawal of information dated November 10, 2015.

The bribery proceedings were held in abeyance for many years until the court on April 12, 2017 granted Desembrana’s motion to dismiss the case on the ground of the violation of his right to its speedy disposition. The Supreme Court (SC), however, reversed the resolution in a July 28, 2020 decision.

This effectively revived the prosecution of Desembrana for allegedly demanding P80,000 from National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) lawyer Ephraim Cortez in exchange for the dismissal of a military chaplain’s complaint against one of the “Morong 43” health workers in 2014.

But, Desembrana would not be put on trial just yet, as the Sandiganbayan revisited the motion for withdrawal of information that it passed over.

Instead of direct bribery, Ombudsman prosecutors would pursue a case for violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or causing undue injury to any party or giving unwarranted benefits through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence.

“Finding the reasons provided by the prosecution to be well-taken, that accused has yet to be arraigned, and that the prosecution’s course of action is in consonance with the OMB’s determination in its Resolution dated 29 September 2015, the Court finds merit in granting the withdrawal of the Information for SB-14-CRM-0427,” read the resolution.

The resolution was signed by Associate Justices Alex Quiroz, Lorifel Lacap Pahimna, and Bayani Jacinto.

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