SC clears vice mayor in fertilizer scam

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THE Supreme Court has cleared Tuao, Cagayan Vice Mayor Francisco Mamba Jr. of the graft charges filed against him and several others in relation to the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.

In a 10-page ruling signed by Division Clerk of Court Librada Buena, the high court’s First Division granted the petition filed by Mamba and his co-accused.

“The assailed Resolutions dated 05 August 2019 and 13 September 2019 of the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division are annulled and set aside. The Sandiganbayan is ordered to dismiss [criminal cases] for violation of petitioners’ constitutional right to speedy disposition of cases,” the high tribunal said.

Mamba Jr., then municipal mayor, was charged with two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act 3019, also known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,” together with his brother and former mayor William Mamba and several other local officials in connection with the reportedly anomalous procurement of 3,333 bottles of Bio-Nature Liquid Organic Fertilizer at P1,500 per bottle worth P4,999,500 from Feshan on April 5, 2004.

On July 2, 2004, they made another purchase with the same amount.

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The anti-graft court denied Mamba’s motion to quash until the case reached the high court.

Mamba argued that the Commission on Audit found out the alleged irregularities in May 2011 but the Office of the Ombudsman Field Investigators came out with their own accusations against Mamba Jr. seven years after.

Mamba questioned why it took so long for the anti-graft body to act on the audit report.

In granting Mamba’s petition, the Court found that “petitioners timely asserted their rights because they filed the motion to quash information for inordinate delay and motion for reconsideration with motion to defer arraignment at the earliest opportunity.”

“Before they were even arraigned, they already filed the motion to quash information for inordinate delay and motion for reconsideration with motion to defer arraignment on the ground of violation of their right to speedy disposition of cases.”

Given the inordinate delay of five years, two months and 15 days in the conduct of the preliminary investigation and the Ombudsman’s clear failure to provide sufficient justification, the court held that the “Sandiganbayan gravely abused its discretion when it refused to uphold the petitioners’ timely asserted right to speedy disposition of cases.”

“Consequently, the criminal actions filed against petitioners should be abated and dismissed,” it added.

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