Justice Delayed – Part I

Justice Delayed

Part I

October 29, 2022

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:

What is worse is that In the PNavy decision, the SB wrote that it was convinced from the facts that came out in the trial, that those they acquitted WERE GUILTY.  

Then why didn’t they convict?  Because “those facts were not alleged in the subject Informations and Amended Informations” and “an accused cannot be convicted of an offense, unless it is clearly charged in the complaint or information. “ In other words,  the prosecution, in spite of its  5-7 year preparation time, brought the wrong charges. It dropped the ball.  Good heavens. 

The only bright spot in this story so far is the COA’s Special Audit Office, and the 3-woman Special Audit Team led by Jeremia Lagunda they assigned to audit PNavy transactions.  Lagunda and her team did an excellent job (which included checking whether suppliers did exist, and their whereabouts, the size of bodegas, plus all the other paperwork) over a two-month period.  She was also an excellent, imperturbable witness.  Reading from the SB decision, what the team did strongly reminded me of what another Special Audit Team under Heidi Mendoza did with respect to the Makati Hospital (except that Mendoza’s efforts were for naught – Elenita Binay et al were acquitted). 



1994 (April) – Special Audit Team is formed, at the request of the PNavy resident auditor to investigate PNavy transactions done in 1990-91 and paid for In 1992-1993.  It completes its audit in two months, and finds a number of anomalous/illegal transactions.  Its written  Report is shared with PNavy officials for comment/explanation.  The comments of the PNavy officials are incorporated in the final report. 


1996 – the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) enters the picture and orders the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to undertake an investigation.


2001(Dec)  After a “thorough” investigation,, the  OSP recommends to OMB the filing of several Informations — 21 counts of malversation of public funds through falsification of public documents against 17 PNavy officers, employees and private citizens ; 170  counts of violating Sec. 3e of RA3019 against the 17 above mentioned plus 35 others (total 52); and one charge of violating Sec 4 of RA 6713 against 13 of the 52 named above. So 192 cases in all.   The ranks  of the officers accused range from Vice Admiral and Brig. General, down to Lieutenant.


2002 (March) – OMB approves recommendation of OSP.  


2003 (Sept) – the OSP files the Informations before the SB.  This is the first time the SB enters the picture.  BTW, why it took 18 months between approval of the Ombudsman and the Filing itself, I cannot say.  (I have difficulty writing the word “informations” as there is no plural form in the English language. But I am told it is used in legal documents so I have to use it without quotes)


2004 (Sept) – the OSP amends 49 of the Informations he had filed the year before, withdraws 22 others, corrects typographical errors, asks the Court to remove names from some of the Information,  corrected the number of a Presidential Decree he had cited.  In other words, the OSP is correcting the mistakes he made in his original Informations. 

2005 (January) – the SB accepts the OSP’s corrections, thereby dismissing 22 cases, and amending the 49 cases as requested by the OSP (mostly removing names of accused)


2006 (Sept) – the SB accepts the last corrections requested by the OSP.  Arraignment begins, and continues until 2011(July). 


2009 (May) – Prosecution submits its Pre-Trial Brief, followed by those of the accused. ONE CANNOT TELL FROM THE SB DECISION WHEN THE ACTUAL TRIAL BEGAN.  BUT…


2022 (Sept) –  SB Decision is promulgated.

To be continued. 


As I See It

The Official Blog of Winnie Monsod

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Richie Fernandez

Good job Tita Winnie! Have more power from Our Almighty Lord God!

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