Ombudsman asks prosecutor: What took you so long?

ombudsman, conchita carpio morales

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales at the Meet the Inquirer forum. TRISTAN TAMAYO/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the chief records officer of the Office of the Special Prosecutor to explain why it took seven months for the Mamasapano cases to reach the Sandiganbayan.

On Wednesday, Morales said that the criminal charges against dismissed Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima and retired Special Action Forces Director Getulio Napeñas had been due for filing in June last year.

Yet the charges for usurpation of authority and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act only reached the court on Tuesday, on the eve of the Mamasapano debacle’s second anniversary.

Because of this, Morales issued a show-cause order for the chief records officer to explain why the complaints were not filed in spite of a standing order that this should be done within a reasonable time.

She admitted that the delay in the filing of the case was discovered only this week, after a television reporter sought updates for an anniversary report on the controversy.

“When it was discovered it was not filed … I gave her a show-cause order to explain within 24 hours why she should not be faulted,” Morales told reporters in an interview on the sidelines of the Asia Women’s Summit in Pasay City.

Morales issued her resolution finding probable cause to press charges against Purisima and Napeñas in April. Two months later, she denied the motions for reconsideration that sought the reversal of the resolution.

The records officer, whom she identified only by the surname Cagat-Cagat, was no longer serving in that position as of last December, having been given a new assignment.

An Ombudsman source told the Inquirer that Morales referred to Alma Cagat-Cagat, now a prosecutor.

Cagat-Cagat’s replacement found that that there had been cases due for filing but had not been done, Morales said.

Asked whether the delay was an isolated incident, she said: “We are still looking at the records.”

She raised the possibility that Cagat-Cagat may be investigated for administrative and criminal liabilities if her explanation was not sufficient.

Procedural delays have led to a spate of high-profile cases being thrown out by the Sandiganbayan for violating the accused officials’ right to speedy disposition of their cases.

Among the recent casualties of this “inordinate delay” were the graft cases against former Palawan Rep. (now Games and Amusement Board Chair) Abraham Kahlil Mitra and former Pampanga Gov. Lito Lapid in connection with the 2004 fertilizer fund scam.

Morales disclosed on Wednesday that a case was now pending in the Supreme Court questioning the inclusion of the fact-finding investigation in the Sandiganbayan’s reckoning of “inordinate delay.” She said it was a case of “transcendental importance.”

The fact-finding probe is the lengthy stage where state investigators gather evidence prior to the filing of a complaint for preliminary investigation by prosecutors.

“We are getting angry already, because people think we’re the ones delaying things. No! We have plenty of cases,” Morales exclaimed.

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