SC junks unlawful appointment case versus ex-Antique governor due to Ombudsman delay

The Supreme Court (SC) has dismissed the unlawful appointment case filed against former Antique Governor Salvacion Zaldivar-Perez, citing the Ombudsman’s violation of her right to the speedy disposition of her case.

In a recent 13-page decision, the SC 2nd Division set aside the Sandiganbayan’s August 28, 2012 resolution denying Perez’s motion to dismiss the case.

The SC made permanent its January 16, 2013 temporary restraining order (TRO) that prevented the case from proceeding before the anti-graft court.

It said six years passed from the filing of the complaint on May 17, 2006 before the Office of the Provincial Prosecutor (OPP) until Ombudsman prosecutors finally brought the case to the Sandiganbayan on May 24, 2012.

It said the OPP took three years to conclude its preliminary investigation and arrive at its August 6, 2009 resolution recommending Perez’s indictment for violation of Article 244 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC).

The case was then forwarded to the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas. However, it only finalized its review resolution on September 8, 2011 which Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved on September 26, 2011. It took anotehr eight months for the case to finally be filed.

The SC noted that the prosecution offered no explanation regarding the delay, especially as the case was “simple” and did not involve complex issues.

“Such a long delay was unreasonable and inordinate so as to constitute an outright violation of the speedy disposition of petitioner Perez’s case,” read the decision penned by Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando.

Even if Perez failed to assert her right before the OPP or the Ombudsman, the SC said it was enough that she raised the issue prior to her arraignment before the Sandiganbayan.

“It is not for the petitioner to ensure that the wheels of justice continue to turn. Rather, it is for the State to guarantee that the case is disposed within a reasonable period,” the decision read.

The case concerned Perez’s appointment of Eduardo Fortaleza as provincial legal officer even as he did not meet the minimum requirement of five years’ practice of law under Section 481 of the Local Government Code (LGC)

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