I cannot say what fascinated me about the recently decided Sandiganbayan (SB) case against a number of Philippine Navy (PNavy) officers regarding malversation of public funds, violation of RA 3019(Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices ) and violation of Sec. 4a of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct for Public Officials), but fascinated I certainly was.
To the extent of reading the 585-page decision itself (this is the correct number. And don’t worry, there were literally hundreds of pages listing down check numbers and vouchers and purchase orders), looking at the Philippine Statistical Yearbook (for data on average number of days for a criminal trial – no luck), reading up on the “Speedy Trial Act of 1998” (RA 8493)– which gives a time limit for a criminal trial, a time limit between the filing of information and arraignment, and a time limit between arraignment and trial, thereby covering all bases, at least on paper, and finally, revisiting RA 3019 and RA 6013.
There is a lot about this case that stand out:
First: The length of time it took. From date of discovery by a Special Audit Team (SAT) of the COA that certain transactions were anomalous (1994) to the date of the promulgation of the SB decision, 28 years elapsed. From the date the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) first filed its Information with the SB up to the decision date, 19 years elapsed.
That means it took 9 years (28 minus 19) for the government to bring the case to court, and 19 years for the SB to hear and decide on it. Now that is what you call a snail’s pace. Compare this with what the Speedy Trial Act of 1998 requires: Between Filing of Information and Arraignment, 30 days, between Arraignment and Trial, 15 days; finally “in no case shall the entire trial period exceed 180 days from the first day of the trial except as otherwise authorized by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court pursuant to…”. That’s 225 days by law versus 19 years in reality.
And this case is by no means over. A Supreme Court appeal may be in the offing, which (and this is a guess) may take anywhere from one to 8 years.
Why the huge delay in the PNavy case? The usual excuses are the voluminous records, or the large number of accused, or the number of crimes involved. But golly gee, compared to this one, the Maguindanao Massacre trial, which we all thought took too long, went by like a whiz: