By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Second Division has refused to quash the charges filed against former Cagayan De Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula in relation to the misuse of P3 million worth of fertilizer funds.
Jaraula claimed in his consolidated motion to quash information that the Office of the Ombudsman violated his constitutional right to a speedy disposition since it took a period of over three years just to conduct and terminate the preliminary investigation against him.
Jaraula has been slapped with violations of Section 3(e) and (g) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act as well as Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code, also known as malversation.
He said in his motion that the crimes alleged in the three charges took place on December 23, 2003 to July 2004. However, the complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman only on August 4, 2014 – more than 10 years later. Because of this, Jaraula said he has been prejudiced by the length of time that has passed.
Unfortunately, the anti-graft court did not buy into his argument of delay. For the Sandiganbayan, the “delay is necessary and unavoidable and is not solely attributable to the Office of the Ombudsman considering the number of respondents given the opportunity to file their counter-affidavits.”
The Ombudsman had to tackle 16 respondents and their witnesses in Jaraula’s case, so the Sandiganbayan acknowledged the “complexity and voluminous records needed to be procured, examined, inspected and scrutinized” by the Ombudsman in order to arrive at a “more prudent resolution.”
“In sum, albeit the delay in the proceedings leading to the filing of the instant cases against herein movant, he miserably failed to convince this court that such delay was oppressive, vexatious and whimsical that would warrant the dismissal of the aforesaid cases against him,” the court ruled.
Jaraula was earlier charged for violation of Section 3(e) and malversation alongside Department of Agriculture (DA) officials – regional technical director Jose Quitazol Sr., assistant regional directors Antonio Rosal and Eduardo Lecciones Jr. of Regional Field Unit VII, as well as budget officer III Ma. Regina Lumantas, accountant III Claudia Artazo, assistant regional director Martino Cajita, and regional technical director Joel Rudinas of Regional Field Unit X.
City agriculturist Godofredo Bajas was likewise charged together with Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI) president Evelyn De Leon, vice president Annabelle Luy, treasurer Maria Fe Escabarte, auditor Jose Ardias, secretary Gertrudes Kilapkilap, members Henry Bucalin and Luzviminda Bucalin.
From December 2003 to July 2004, the accused were faulted for giving manifest partiality to PSDFI when they signed its endorsement and entered into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with it even though its documents were incomplete. They reportedly received the fertilizers without any proof of receipt by the farmer beneficiaries and disbursed the P3 million despite the NGO’s failure to comply with the requirements of Commission on Audit (COA) Circular No. 96-003.
Jaraula stands accused of violating Section 3(g) alone for selecting PSDFI even though the NGO was “not based in the city of Cagayan de Oro where the project was to be implemented,” the charge sheet read.
At the same time, PSDFI’s sources of its funds are from donations and minimal membership fees based on its Financial Statements from year 2000 to 2004, contrary to the requirement that fund assistance shall not be its sole source of funds.
PSDFI also failed to submit a list of projects it had previously undertaken to show its experience and expertise in implementing the project to be funded.