No inordinate delay: Sandiganbayan affirms charges vs Hagedorn

MANILA, Philippines – A defense fast becoming popular did not work for former Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn as the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan ruled there was no investigative delay and affirmed all 27 charges against the former local chief excutive.

In a resolution issued on July 19, the Sandiganbayan's Fifth Division denied Hagedorn's Omnibus Motion to have his corruption charges dismissed allegedly because of inordinate delay and other technicalities.

Hagedorn is facing 9 counts each of graft, perjury, and ethical violation for misreprepentations in his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) from 2004 to 2012.

Ombudsman prosecutors said Hagedorn left out of his SALNs real properties, motor vehicles, and corporate/business interests. These include 59 real properties such as agricultural lands and commercial building,s and 49 vehicles, including a BMW and a Volvo.

Hagedorn, who served as Puerto Princesa mayor from 1992 to mid-2001, and from late 2002 to 2013, allegedly concealed business interests in Palawan Jolly Foods Corporation, Puerto Princesa Broadcasting Corporation, Puerto Prince Bee Foods Corporation, Green Forest Blue Waters Corporation, Radiant Home Land Development Incorporated, and Hagedorn Travel and Tours Incorporated.

Hagedorn invoked his right to speedy disposition of cases, saying the Ombudsman took too long investigating because the alleged offense was committed in 2005 but the information was only filed in court in 2015. It is a defense that had worked for many others, and had even caused the dismissal of a P6-billion graft case.

The defense is grounded on the delay doctrine, which the Ombudsman is asking the Supreme Court to strike down.

But in this ruling, the Sandiganbayan said Hagedorn's reasoning is misplaced. 

“While justice is administered with dispatch, the essential ingredient is orderly, expeditious and not mere speed. It cannot be definitely said how long is too long in a system where justice is supposed to be swift, but deliberate,” the court said.

Associate Justice Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega penned the 8-page resolution with concurrences from Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Reynaldo Cruz.

Hagedorn had also tried to have his charges dropped based on technicality. In his motion, Hagedorn said the informations were defective because the Ombudsman failed to state clearly that the SALNs were submitted under oath and subscribed to before competent officers.

The court said Hagedorn is correct in saying the Ombudsman made a mistake, but added the mistake can be corrected.

“We hold that the first ground cannot warrant the dismissal of the information. We shall instruct the prosecution to examine the information, before arraignment of the accused, in order to make the necessary corrections or revisions and to ensure that the information are sufficient in form and substance to properly charge the accuse,” the court said. –