Justice Delayed (and Confused) – Part II

Justice Delayed (and Confused) Part II

“The mountain labored, and  gave birth to a mouse”     

– Aesop

November 4, 2022

“Case I”

After I read the Sandiganbayan (SB) decision on the Philippine Navy case (Navy), the above saying came to mind. Only consider, Reader. We already know that the case took 19 years from filing the Information to the promulgation of the decision. Why that long? In the course of that proceeding, thirteen of the accused died, and thirteen went “at-large”, which meant, according to the SB’s calculations , only 19 of the 45 accused stood trial.   

But there’s the rub, Reader. Any Court decision starts with “People of the Philippines versus…..” and there follows the list of the Accused. Well, there were a total of 57 names in that list, so right from the beginning, there is a discrepancy of 12 between the SB’s list and the list in the title of the decision. Now look at the Accused list: Three Vice-Admirals, eight Commodores, fourteen Captains, four Commanders,  three Lieutenant Commanders and three Lieutenants, for a total of 35 Navy Officers, and three Brigadiers General, two Colonels and one Lieutenant Colonel for a total of 6 Philippine Army Officers (medics all) were named.  

There were also 16 civilians, mostly Navy personnel, but obviously including suppliers of medical equipment, supplies and medicine.  

Aside from the discrepancy with respect to the number of accused (is it 57 or 45?), the SB tends to show other signs of sloppiness: it changes the rank of an officer between one set of cases and another; there are other inconsistencies between the Accused list and the penned decision  as to how many officers and how many private individuals are accused in the three different sets of cases – for example, in the malversation case, the Accused list names 12 officers and 5 private individuals, but SB Presiding Justice Tang (the ponente) names only 6 officers and five private individuals.  

With all these discrepancies, errors and inconsistencies, on the part of the SB, we seem not only have to have justice delayed and  denied, but also justice confused.  

But for the sake of argument let us assume that Justice Tang’s count is accurate – of 45 accused, of which 13 are dead, 13 are at large, so that means 19  stood trial.  That implies that since the court proceedings took 19 years, it took an average of one year for every accused who appeared in court. 

And after these 19 years, only one officer – relatively low on the totem pole, given the ranks of the other officers accused– and two private individuals, a Navy employee and a supplier got convicted.  

See what I mean, about the mountain laboring, and bringing forth a mouse?

But there’s another sidelight to this story about justice delayed, denied, and confused.   Sometime in 2011, while our 19-year saga was going on, another Navy case was brought to the  SB.  For brevity, the new case is Case II, the old case is Case I


“Case II” 

Case II is amazingly similar to Case I.  

In Case 1, a Special Audit was done on the purchase of medicines from 1991-1992, while in Case II, the audit was done over purchases from 1990-1991 and payments from1992-1993 . In Case I, the audit was done in 1994. In Case II, the audit was done in 1992. Three of the officers involved in Case I were also charged in Case II – command responsibility (Dumancas, Briones, and Tuazon).

Case II, whose audit was earlier, was brought to the SB much later – 2011.  The charges were the violation of Sec. 3 (e) of RA 3019.  Nine officers and 4 private individuals were charged. But the 60-page decision was promulgated in January, 2017.   “Only” 5 years from filing to decision.

Vice Admiral Dumancas, the top man in the Navy (FOIC) at the time, was convicted on four counts, and sentenced to 6 years for every count. So were a Commodore, and two Commanders. The VADM Dumancas died barely three months after the Case II decision, so he had no time to bring his case up to the Supreme Court (SC).

But one of the co-accused, Commodore Torres, did bring up his case to the SC on certiorari, while the trial was still going on. Essentially, his argument (which the SB had turned down, including his motion for reconsideration) was that his right to a speedy disposition of the case and due process was violated.   Guess what, Reader? The SC decided in his favor in 2016 and dismissed the cases against him.  How about that?    

Do you know how much was involved in Case II?  All of P2.3 million. For that amount, a case takes five years?   Compare that to the plunder cases against Senators Revilla and Estrada, etc., involving way more than P50 -P100 million. The cases were resolved much quicker, and they got off with nary a punishment.  And I wonder how much was spent on lawyers’ fees plus the other court costs – it has to be much more than P2.3 million.  What a waste.  


Now let’s go back to Case I.  The Navy officer convicted and sentenced is Commander Gilmer Batestil, PMA 1972.   He has all of my sympathy, what with 19 years of lawyers fees to pay, among other things.  To justice delayed, denied, and confused, add biased and wasteful.


As I See It

The Official Blog of Winnie Monsod

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