Rep. Rene L. Relampagros, representative of the first district of Bohol, expressed his extreme disappointment of the news of the denial by the Office of the Ombudsman of his Motion for Reconsideration to reverse the Resolution indicting him and several others over the Joint Venture Agreement to Rehabilitate-Operate-Own (JVA-ROO) with the Salcon Group of companies to improve the electricity and water systems in Tagbilaran City in 2000.
According to sources, in the four-page Order of the Office of the Ombudsman, dated June 4, 2015 and signed by Hon. Conchita Carpio-Morales, it cited as reasons the fact that the Resolution dated 2008 was a mere photocopy attached to the duplicate copies of their files which is contrary to their rules of procedure and that then Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro had no authority to sign as such a Decision. Hence, said decision was void.
â€œI still have not formally received a copy of the Order of the Ombudsman, it was only in the news that I have heard of it. We will be ready to take the next steps once we receive the Order,â€ Relampagos said.
Rep. Relampagos was then Governor of the Province when the said JVA-ROO was executed. â€œI maintain my ground that everything done then â€“ from procedural to substantive, were all above board. We did no shortcuts. It was the best option at that time and it is still serves its purpose to this day. I was confident then and I am confident now,â€ he said.
It can be recalled that the complainants in the case, led by Atty. Zotico Ochavilla, initially filed, on July 2000, for Prohibition with Prayer for Writ of Preliminary Injunction with the Regional Trial Court of Tagbilaran City which was denied. Thereafter, they elevated their case to the Court of Appeals, docketed as CA-G.R. S.P. No. 61274, by way of Appeal by Certiorari which was likewise denied on January 31, 2002. Their Motion for Reconsideration was likewise finally denied on January 17, 2005.
Complainants then filed a case for Violation of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended and Republic Act No. 7080 with the Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas). On February 22, 2001, a Resolution by Sarah Jo A. Vergara, Graft Investigation Officer II, was issued by the Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) dismissing the case for lack of merit. It was reviewed and approved by Graft Investigation Officer III, Virginia Palanca Santiago. On March 21, 2001, it was recommended for approval by the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, Hon. Primo C. Miro.
Nothing was heard of the case until sometime on August 2008, Respondents duly received a copy of the Resolution as finally approved, affirming the recommendation for dismissal, by Hon. Orlando C. Casimiro, Acting Ombudsman. Said Resolution was duly signed on July 2, 2008. Hence, respondents were surprised to receive, on September 16, 2014, a copy of the Resolution anew, reversing the 2008 dismissal of the case and finding probable cause for the filing of information for violation of Section 3, paragraph (g) of RA 3019, as amended. Hence, the Motion for Reconsideration.
In his Motion for Reconsideration, Rep. Relampagos invoked the principle of finality of judgment and insisted that no Motion for Reconsideration by the complainants having been filed from the decision of the Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas in 2001 nor from the Decision of the Acting Ombudsman in 2008, the decision dismissing the case clearly became final by then. More importantly, he emphasized that the 2014 decision which reversed the decision of the investigating officers violated his constitutionally enshrined rights to due process and to speedy disposition of cases.
In a long line of cases decided by the Supreme Court, it has consistently held that inordinate delay in resolving a criminal complaint, being violative of the constitutionally guaranteed right to due process and to the speedy disposition of cases, warrants the dismissal of the criminal case. In settled cases such as People vs. Sandiganbayan, involving former Secretary of Justice Hernando Perez, Angchangco, Jr. vs. Ombudsman and Tatad vs. Sandiganbayan, the delay were less than six (6) years. In the case against Rep. Relampagos, the delay had been more that fourteen (14) years! Justice delayed is justice denied.
In the Motion for Reconsideration, Rep. Relampagos emphasized that the questioned JVA-ROO was beneficial to the Province and that the said privatization initiative has been recognized both nationally and internationally as a breakthrough in local autonomy and governance. It is considered as a model/ success story/ best practice by the Department of Finance, USAID, AIM, and ADB, among others. It was even featured in Newsbreak Magazine by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism as one of the best LGU practices. It is considered a pioneering project, way ahead of its time. Boholâ€™s privatization experience has also been featured in a number of publication of international agencies as a case study and/or model for possible replication/adoption by other LGUs. Bohol was also invited to the 34th Congress of the International Union of Local Authorities in Barcelona, Spain in 1999 to share its experiences on the then ongoing privatization of its water and electric systems.
Surprisingly, the Order of the Ombudsman did not even bother to discuss the merits of the case.
â€œWhile I totally disagree with the decision of the Ombudsman, I respect their decision and will just pursue other legal remedies available to me,â€ said Rep. Relampagos.