Sunday, June 4, 2017

Ombudsman appeals acquittal of ex-SolGen Devanadera | Headlines, News, The Philippine Star |

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State prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman have asked the Sandiganbayan First Division to reconsider its ruling dismissing the graft case against former solicitor-general Agnes Devanadera in connection with a P6.1-billion settlement deal that a government corporation entered into with a private firm in 2006.

In its 15-page motion for reconsideration, the prosecution said the First Division “grievously erred” in its May 16, 2017 ruling granting Devanadera's motion to dismiss her graft case due to the supposed “inordinate delay” in the ombudsman's investigation.

“The prosecution maintains that there is no inordinate delay in the instant case...the prosecution was able to explain the delay in the conduct of preliminary investigation and based on the timeline of the instant case, the delay should be considered reasonable and hardly inordinate,” the prosecution's motion read.

In its ruling, the court said Devanadera's constitutional right to speedy disposition of the case was violated by the ombudsman when it took the agency more than six years to finish its investigation on the complaint against her and the other respondents in October 2010 filed by former Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) president Luis Sison.

It was only on Nov. 25, 2016 when the ombudsman filed the graft cases against Devanadera and 18 other individuals before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the alleged anomaly.

In its motion for reconsideration, the prosecution argued that it only took the ombudsman around two years to finish its investigation on the complaint and file the cases in court.

The prosecution said the court erred in its mathematical reckoning when it included the fact-finding stage or verification procedure by the field investigators.

“Although the complaint was filed in October 2010, the Office of the Ombudsman conducted a fact-finding investigation in order to verify the veracity of the allegation in the complaint,” the motion read.

“Only after the Office of the Ombudsman was convinced that the case is ripe for preliminary investigation did it order the accused-movant to file her counter-affidavit in June 2013,” it added.

The prosecution maintained that the period of formal investigation by the ombudsman only commences after the respondent filed his or her counter-affidavit.

The prosecution further pointed out that Devanadera never raised the issue of “inordinate delay” at the course of the ombudsman's investigation nor after the case against her was filed before the Sandiganbayan.

Because of Devanadera's supposed inaction during the ombudsman's investigation, it is deemed that she has already waived her constitutional right to speedy disposition of the case, the prosecution said.

The case stemmed from Devanadera's alleged act of advising PNCC, a government-owned and controlled corporation, to enter into a compromise agreement with Radstock Securities Limited, successor-in-interest of Marubeni Corporation.

Devanadera was at that time serving as a public lawyer under the Office Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC).

The subject of the compromised agreement was a P13.15-billion collection suit filed by Radstock against PNCC, which at that time was pending before the Court of Appeals.

In the compromise agreement signed between Radstock and PNCC on August 17, 2006, the latter acknowledged that it has liability to the former amounting to P6.185 billion.

To pay for the purported liability, the PNCC agreed to transfer to Radstock 19 real properties owned by the government, to transfer to Radstock 20 percent of its common shares and to assign to Radstock half of its six percent shares in the gross toll revenue of the Manila North Tollways Corporation for the next 27 years (2008 to 2035).

The ombudsman said the compromise agreement was unlawful as PNCC “had no power to compromise the settlement amount” and to assign toll fees to private entities.

The ombudsman further said the PNCC cannot just transfer government-owned real properties to Radstock in the absence of public bidding and without compliance with existing property transfer laws.

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