This is a special civil action for certiorari which seeks to annul and set aside the Resolutions by public respondent Sandiganbayan for allegedly having been issued without or in excess of jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction, and to reinstate the six Informations for Violation of Section 3 (e) of R.A. No. 3019 otherwise known as the “Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” filed against all private respondents for allegedly conspiring and defrauding the government in the amount of P89M through ghost deliveries of assorted supplies and materials and unaccounted supplies and materials.
The first assailed Resolution granted the motions to quash or dismiss filed by private respondents and the subsequent Resolution denied petitioner’s MR and granted the motions to quash filed by respondents premised on the ground of inordinate delay in the conduct of the preliminary investigation amounting to a violation of their constitutional rights to due process of law and to a speedy disposition of the cases, when it took the Office of the Ombudsman almost fifteen (15) years to file their case before the court.
The Complaint was filed in 1994 while the arraignment was set only in 2009.
1 . Whether or not the special civil action for Certiorari was proper.
2. Whether or not there was a violation of the right of the private respondents to speedy disposition of their cases.
3. Was the delay on the part of the Office of the Ombudsman vexatious, capricious, and oppressive?
A petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court and a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court are two and separate remedies. A petition under Rule 45 brings up for review errors of judgment, while a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 covers errors of jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction. Grave abuse of discretion is not an allowable ground under Rule 45. A petition for review under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court is a mode of appeal.
However, the provision must be read in relation to Section 1, Rule 122 of the Rules of Court, which provides that any party may appeal from a judgment or final order “unless the accused will thereby be placed in double jeopardy.” Therefore, the judgment that may be appealed by the aggrieved party envisaged in Rule 45 is a judgment convicting the accused, and not a judgment of acquittal. The State is barred from appealing such judgment of acquittal by a petition for review.
Instead, a judgment of acquittal may be assailed by the People in a petition for certiorari under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court without placing the accused in double jeopardy. However, in such case, the People is burdened to establish that the court a quo, in this case, the Sandiganbayan, acted without jurisdiction or grave abuse of discretion amounting to excess or lack of jurisdiction or a denial of due process.
Thus, the instant petition for certiorari is the correct remedy in seeking to annul the Resolutions of public respondent Sandiganbayan.
This right is enshrined in Article III of the Constitution, which declares:
Section 16. All persons shall have the right to a speedy disposition of their cases before all judicial, quasi-judicial or administrative bodies.
The constitutional right is not limited to the accused in criminal proceedings but extends to all parties in all cases, be it civil or administrative in nature, as well as all proceedings, either judicial or quasi-judicial. In this accord, any party to a case may demand expeditious action from all officials who are tasked with the administration of justice. This right, however, like the right to a speedy trial, is deemed violated only when the proceeding is attended by vexatious, capricious, and oppressive delays.
Hence, the doctrinal Rule is that in the determination of whether that right has been violated, the factors that may be considered and balanced are as follows: (1) the length of delay; (2) the reasons for the delay; (3) the assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused; and (4) the prejudice caused by the delay.
In the case at bar, the Resolution dated April 12, 1996 recommended the filing of charges against the private respondents. The recommendation was approved by the Ombudsman on March 2, 1998. The approval of the Ombudsman should have resulted in the filing of information with the court, but no action was taken thereon.
According to Angchangco, Jr. v. Ombudsman, 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.
We answer in the affirmative.
In the present case, it took more than a decade for the Office of the Ombudsman to “re-evaluate” and “thoroughly review” the proper charges to file with the court and whether or not respondents should be charged.
We are not persuaded by the reasons for the delay advanced by the petitioner.
Conversely, it was the Office of the Ombudsman’s responsibility to expedite the same within the bounds of reasonable timeliness in view of its mandate to promptly act on all complaints lodged before it.
Excessive delay in the disposition of cases renders the rights of the people guaranteed by the Constitution and by various legislations inutile.
All told, the criminal complaints were correctly dismissed on the ground of inordinate delay of fifteen (15) years amounting to a transgression of the right to a speedy disposition of cases and therefore, the Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion.