Sandiganbayan lifts hold order against ex-town agriculturist

By: Gerome Dalipe

Former agriculturist Robert Alcudia of Alimodian, Iloilo can now travel abroad.

This, after the Sandiganbayan lifted the hold departure order it issued for Alcudia following the dismissal of the graft case against him and former Iloilo Second District Representative Augusto Syjuco Jr.

Likewise, the anti-graft court ordered the release of Alcudia’s cash bond, which he posted for his temporary freedom.

The lifting of the hold order came after the Sandiganbayan dismissed the graft charges against Alcudia due to “inordinate delay.”

“Although a mere mathematical computation of the period is not the sole basis for determining inordinate delay, a period of almost 2 years for an investigation to be concluded is, by any measure of time, unreasonable and unjustifiable, to the point of being vexatious, capricious, and oppressive,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg.

Alcudia, Syjuco and seven other municipal officials were charged with of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

In its 12-page resolution, the anti-graft court’s First Division granted Syjuco’s motion to dismiss his case of violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The court said the ombudsman violated Syjuco’s constitutional right to speedy disposition of his case when it took the agency almost 12 years to resolve the complaint against him and his several co-accused.

Also cleared of similar case were former Alimodian vice mayor Ramon Anino and former municipal councilors Emmanuel Adricula, Aquiles Cabaluna Jr., Miguel Ambong, Geefre Alonsabe, Job Almacen and Roy Almonares.

The case stemmed from the alleged anomalous utilization of P5-million fund from the Department of Agriculture for the implementation of the agency’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program in 2004.

Former provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada claimed that Syjuco “conspired” with the officials of the Alimodian municipal government in entering into a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with an unqualified non-government organization Tawo Kag Duta sa Kauswagan Cooperative.

The MOA was the basis for the implementation of P5-million GMA program which included the purchase of fertilizer and other farm implements.

In indicting the respondents, the anti-graft office said that Syjuco and his co-accused deviated from the original agreement with the DA, executed in April 2004, in which Alimodian municipality was designated as the implementer of the GMA program.

The ombudsman also said Tawo Kag Duta sa Kauswagan Cooperative was not an accredited NGO to implement the project.

In his pleading, Alcudia argued sought for the dismissal of the complaint due to “inordinate delay.”

He said it took 11 years for the Ombudsman to resolve the complaint filed in 2006 until the filing of the charge sheet in 2017.

In dismissing the case, the Sandiganbayan said it is not the duty of the accused to bring himself to trial.

“The dismissal of this case against him is therefore only warranted,” read the anti-graft court’s ruling.