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Case dismissal via doctrine of 'inordinate delay' pains magistrate.

An associate justice at the Sandiganbayan on Friday lamented the dismissal of graft and corruption cases filed before the court over the doctrine of 'inordinate delay.'

In a rare move breaking the silence of a magistrate, Associate Justice Efrendela Cruz, who chairs the anti-graft court First Division, said it 'pains him' to dismiss cases due to this doctrine, but the hands of the court are tied.

The First Division under Dela Cruz's chairpersonship has dismissed cases due to this doctrine. This same doctrine is now being questioned by the Ombudsman before the Supreme Court.

'It pains us to dismiss cases because of inordinate delay,' Dela Cruz said in his speech during a symposium on the best practices on anti-corruption held at Novotel Manila in Cubao.

Dela Cruz said it is his personal opinion not to dismiss the cases due to inordinate delay, which under the Supreme Court's latest definition should include the fact-finding investigation.

Under the fact-finding investigation, investigators gather evidence to support the next step of investigation which is the preliminary investigation.

The Sandiganbayan has dismissed cases which took the Ombudsman years to file before the anti-graft court, for violation of the accused's constitutional right to speedy disposition of case.

The anti-graft court usually accounts for the period starting from the filing of complaint, the fact-finding, the preliminary investigation, until the filing of complaint.

In its motion questioning the doctrine before the Supreme Court, the Ombudsman said the computation for inordinate delay should cover only the preliminary investigation up to the filing of information before the court.

Dela Cruz said he does not agree that the computation for inordinate delay should stretch back to the fact-finding stage.

'Part of the computation of the delay includes the fact-finding investigation. We personally do not agree with that,' Dela Cruz said.

Since this was a doctrine set by jurisprudence, the First Division has no choice but to comply with it, dismissing a spate of corruption cases over the inordinate delay doctrine, Dela Cruz said.

'That's the doctrine of the Supreme Court. We have no choice but to follow it. It was emphasized that the fact-finding investigation should be made part of the computation,' Dela Cruz said.

'So our hands are tied by the decision of the Supreme Court,' he added.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jul 28, 2017
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