The joint venture (JV) case isÂ dead on technical and constitutional grounds as well as on the bases of substance and merits, the latter even long judicially settled, according to lawyers.
They said Sandiganbayanâ€™s dismissal of the case has validated its death otherwise long occurring when, then hearing the substance and merits, the regular courts and Ombudsman itself trashed all the civil, administrative and criminal charges many years ago.
Atty Victor dela Serna and his group tried to Â to keep the issue muddled but failed Â as lawyer Lord Marapao IV asserted there is nothing now remaining to resolve.
The young Marapao, who is the legal spokesperson for Rep. Rene Relampagos, Gov. Edgar Chatto and other Bohol officials acquitted of the case, adviced Dela Serna to â€œstop talking like not a lawyerâ€ himself.
The procedural and substantive requirements that warranted the dismissal were satisfied and that is why Sandiganbayan found the revival and delay of the disposition of the case by the Ombudsman to be â€œinordinateâ€ and â€œcapricious and vexatious.â€
In the vernacular, â€œinordinate delayâ€ translates to â€œkalangan nga naghingapin, naghinobra ug di na makatarunganon.â€
The civil charge then filed by Dela Sernaâ€™s group to prohibit the joint venture was long junked by a Regional Trial Court (RTC) here, appealed but denied by another RTC and, finally, raised to the Court of Appeals (CA) but still junked.
The first motion for reconsideration was raffled to another RTC sala because Dela Serna and his group would want the judge of the first RTC scrapping the case to inhibit.
The substance and merits of the case were already argued, resolved and decided in both the lower and higher courts.
Representing the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP), Board Member Tomas Abapo, Jr., also a lawyer, had for one then himself stood and argued against the Dela Serna group on the merits of the case in both the lower and higher courts.
Also acquitted by the Sandiganbayan, Abapo was a member of the SP that authorized Relampagos, then the governor, to negotiate on the joint venture with the private investor Salcon.
Thereafter the RTC and CA junking of the civil charges, Dela Sernaâ€™s group filed administrative and criminal complaints still involving the JV with the Ombudsman-Visayas but which were dismissed, too, Â for lack of merit.
Relampagos, Chatto, et al were cleared of any administrative liability but the dismissal of the criminal complaint was approved by the Ombudsman-Manila only in 2008 or some seven years after its recommendation by the Ombudsman Visayas in February 2001.
The dismissal was penned by then Graft Investigation Officer II Sarah Jo Vergara, reviewed by Graft Investigation Officer III Virginia Palanca Santiago, recommended for approval by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Primo Miro and approved by Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro.
The dismissal had ever Â since never been questioned or no motion for reconsideration had ever been submitted until, in 2014, the Ombudsman, this time under Conchita Carpio Morales, suddenly and â€œmysteriouslyâ€ reversed the Casimiro-approved dismissal.
The Ombudsman denied the reconsideration motions and filed an information with the Sandiganbayan but which ultimately dismissed the case two weeks ago.
As all previous and past cases got dismissed based on substance and merits, the Sandiganbayan threw out the revived case for the Ombudsmanâ€™s â€œinordinate and unjustified delay…in violation of the right of the accused to a speedy disposition of their case.â€
The required hold departure orders and bail bonds were also respectively lifted and released by the Sandiganbayan as it laid the case to rest.
The Sandiganbayan resolvedthe case more on technicality against its being revived despite its long dismissal on substance and merits.
The graft court found reasonable basis to believe that the case had long been terminated and its revival no longer substantive and meritorious while disregarding the constitutional right to a speedy disposition of justice.
As Dela Serna apparently miserably failed to alter the rested issue by his own misleading claims A recount of the Ombudsman dismissal in 2008 was provided by Provincial Legal Officer John Mitchel Boiser, a young lawyer like Marapao.
Weighing on the substance and merits, the Ombudsman resolved, â€œForemostly, there never was any undervaluation of the assetsâ€ because complainants mistook for a â€˜factâ€™ was the â€˜potentialâ€™ (of the water and power utilities) to have the net present values.â€
What Dela Serna wrongly asserted to be the ‘actual’ worth of the provincial governmentâ€™s water and electric utilities that long time ago was the’ ‘potential’ value, including franchise rights, of the utilities which is â€œsupposed to be realized within a period of 20 yearsâ€ in operation as a joint venture already.
In that 2008 dismissal resolution, the Ombudsman said the complainants â€œfailed to mention that under the (then) present state conditions, the appraised value of both utilities was in the negative.â€
â€œComplainants either erred or deliberately misrepresented in assuming that the potential valuations under the (then) proposed joint venture business was the absolute and immutable valuations of the two utilities,â€ the resolution said.
Further on the substance and merits of the case, Boiser quoted the Ombudsman as saying in dismissing the case that the â€œimpressive value the utilities have the potential to achieveâ€ was â€œunfortunately a mere projectionâ€ and, thus, â€œthere can be no undervaluation to speak of.â€
The Ombudsman dismissal in 2008 said the respondent officials had â€œsatisfactorily disproved the charges against them and there now remains no ground to justify their indictment in court.â€
The public noticed that , Dela Serna insinuated on his paid radio program that a bribe by â€œpabaonâ€ to the First Division associate justices must have taken place.
He said on air and, therefore, in public that Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz â€œis to retire in a matter of monthsâ€ and the Bohol officials and private partner of the joint venture â€œhave millionsâ€ for the â€œpabaon.â€
But he then quickly retracted, saying that it was a â€œpure speculation,â€ apparently to avoid a possible contempt by Sandiganbayan or any other legal consequences of his actuation.
Years ago, it can be recalled that Â the Supreme Court held Dela Serna in contempt and fined him P30,000 for accusing a justice of getting a bribe in exchange of a favorable decision over a Panglao property case.
Dela Serna was the lawyer of the litigant who lost in that case.
NOT JUST EVEN
Marapao said the Sandiganbayan dismissal resolution promulgated last January 21 was grounded not just even on technicality.
He said a â€œcursory reading of the resolution would tell us that the ground for dismissal of the criminal action was the violation of the constitutional right of the accused to a speedy disposition of their case.â€
â€œSuch dismissal, which benefits all the accused, is not on mere technicality because it is already tantamount to an acquittal and this would bar further prosecution of the accused for the same offense,â€ the lawyer said.
The Sandiganbayan found the motions to dismiss â€œimpressed with merits.â€Â (Ven rebo Arigo)Â