Sandiganbayan junks Palawan governor's bid for reinvestigation of graft case

MANILA, Philippines – The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan denied Palawan Governor Jose Alvarez's bid to have his graft case returned to the Office of the Ombudsman for a new investigation, saying there were no new evidence presented.

Alvarez had filed a motion seeking to set aside his indictment and suspend proceedings to review evidence in his case. However, a special division of 5 justices junked this on a 3-2 vote.

In a majority resolution penned by 2nd Division chairman and Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr, the Sandiganbayan said the Ombudsman's ruling had already considered Alvarez's arguments and found them lacking due to a failure to introduce new evidence.

The Ombudsman, added the anti-graft court, also noted the defense's failure to point to procedural violations or any error of law.

Aside from these, the Sandiganbayan ruled that since Alvarez filed a motion for reconsideration before the anti-graft court, he could no longer request for an Ombudsman reinvestigation.

"A motion for reconsideration and a motion for reinvestigation are alternative remedies...which may not be availed of successively. Otherwise stated, the availment of one remedy precludes the availment of the other," Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang said in her concurring opinion.

This was echoed by Associate Justice Maryann Corpus Mañalac, who added that Alvarez was able to present his side during the preliminary investigation.

"The denial of a motion for reconsideration filed by a respondent who actively participated during preliminary investigation, as in this case, is certainly not a valid ground in support of a motion for reinvestigation," she said.

Alvarez's case stemmed from alleged anomalies in a Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) bulk water supply project approved in 2004.

He was charged with COWD Board of Directors chairman Francisco Mendez; members Sarah Borja, Raymundo Java, and Sandy Bass Sr, and former Local Water Utilities Administration head Lorenzo Jamora.

Prosecutors at the time said the officials favored Rio Verde Water Consortium for the project as it was declared a qualified bidder even if it did not go through the bids and awards committee.

Alvarez denied he was part of Rio Verde Water Consortium and said he only had one share to his name.

Associate Justices Michael Frederick Musngi and Lorifel Pahimna dissented in the Sandiganbayan ruling. – Rappler.com