Sandigan junks case vs BI execs who deported convicted US bomb maker
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has dismissed the graft case against three former Bureau of Immigration commissioners who deported a convicted American bomb maker in 2005 and allegedly helped him avoid serving his sentence.
In a 17-page resolution, the court’s First Division cited the “inordinate delay” in the Ombudsman’s investigation of the case against acting Commissioner Teodoro Delarmente and associate commissioners Jose Cabochan and Roy Almoro.
Also cleared of graft charges were executive assistant and chief of staff Alejandro Fernandez, legal aide Richard Perez, civil security unit acting chief Wendy Rosario, detention center acting warden Noel
Espinoza, and security escort Marcelino Agana.
The court said the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office had already prepared a formal complaint dated Dec. 19, 2011, although it was only docketed on Aug. 30, 2013 to formally start the preliminary investigation stage.
This meant the fact-finding probe took at least one year and eight months before the FIO submitted the complaint to the Preliminary Investigation and Administrative Adjudicative Bureau, another part of the Office of the Ombudsman. The court said this was “unexplained.”
It also stressed that, contrary to the Ombudsman’s stance, the fact-finding period should be included in determining if the accused’s right to the speedy disposition of his case was violated.
At the preliminary investigation stage, the court credited the investigating prosecutor for resolving the case promptly on March 31, 2015, a little over three months after the last of the affidavits was submitted. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales approved the resolution on July 24, 2015 and denied the appeals on Dec. 4, 2015.
From then, the Ombudsman, however, took quite a while before finally filing the case at the Sandiganbayan on Jan. 23, 2017, one year and six months after the indictment was approved.
Thus, the court considered the three-year delay “oppressive and capricious.”
The immigration officials were charged with violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for giving unwarranted benefits to US national Vo Van Duc.
Prosecutors said Delarmente, Cabochan, Almoro, Fernandez, and Perez approved and issued Summary Deportation Order AFF-05-043, dated May 5, 2005, in favor of Duc.
This allowed Duc, an inmate at the Bureau of Immigration Detention Center, to “leave the Philippines and effectively avoid service of his sentence,” according to the charge sheet.
Duc had been sentenced by the Pasig City Regional Trial Court to imprisonment of four years and two months to a maximum of six years for violating Section 4 of Republic Act No. 8294, which prohibits the illegal manufacture of explosives.
The deportation order was said to have violated the rules and regulations on summary deportation, with the BI officials citing an old charge sheet as basis instead.
During the weeks preceding Duc’s deportation, prosecutors said Delarmente, Rosario, Espinoza, and Agana even issued medical passes dated April 29, May 4, and May 9, that allowed the foreigner to stay
in an apartelle without justification and authority.
The passes were allegedly issued without a recommendation by the BI physician for outside treatment or hospitalization. SFM
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