November 25, 2017 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Ex-gov’t counsel cleared of graft

FORMER GOVERNMENT Corporate Counsel Agnes VST Devanadera has been cleared of graft charges after the Sandiganbayan granted her motion to junk said charges due to the Ombdusman’s “inordinate and unreasonable” delay in conducting its investigation.

The graft court’s First Division granted the motion to quash filed by Ms. Devanadera, who argued in her plea that the Ombudsman took more than six years to complete its preliminary investigation, a delay that was “unjustified, oppressive, and vexatious.”

The complaint against Ms. Devanadera was filed at the Office of the Ombudsman on Oct. 12, 2010, and the information against her was filed before the Sandiganbayan on Nov. 25, 2016.

The Sandiganbayan said in its decision: “In the present case, it took the Office of the Ombudsman over six years to complete the preliminary investigation, reckoned from the filing of the complaint on October 12, 2010 until the filing of information before this Court on November 25, 2016. To the mind of the Court, such delay is inordinate and unreasonable.

Ms. Devanadera was charged with graft in connection with the P6.1-billion debt settlement in 2006 between Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC) and Radstock Securities Ltd. As the Government Corporate Counsel then, she was subsequently accused of recommending the approval of the compromise agreement to the PNCC board.

To recall, the Supreme Court in 2009 nullified the compromise agreement, saying the deal was “indisputably contrary to the Constitution.”

The Sandiganbayan said it was not “convinced” with the prosecution’s argument that due to her failure to assert her right to a speedy disposition of case, the case should not be dismissed.

“[I]t bears stressing that the assertion or non assertion of the right to a speedy disposition of one’s case is just one of the factors to consider in determining whether or not the right has been violated. Corollarily, the accused’s non-assertion of his right does not ipso facto rule out inordinate delay,” the court said.

Her 12 other co-accused were earlier cleared by the court last April also due to the Ombudsman’s delay in its investigation.

Ms. Devenadera also served as Justice secretary during the administration of then President (now Pampanga 2nd-district Rep.) Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.