Bernat v. Sandiganbayan : 158018 : May 20, 2004 : J. Azcuna : First
Division : Decision
[G.R. NO. 158018 : May 20, 2004]
JAIME T. BERNAT, Petitioner, v. THE HONORABLE SANDIGAN-BAYAN (5TH
Division) and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES represented by the Special Prosecutors
of the Office of the Ombudsman, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a Petition for Certiorari with application for
temporary restraining order, under Rule 65 of the Rules of Court.
Petitioner Jaime T. Bernat raises only one issue for the Courts
consideration: Is there a violation of the constitutional prohibition against
unreasonable delay in the disposition of a criminal case which stands undecided
until now although submitted for decision on August 25, 1994?chanroblesvirtualawlibrary
The assailed twin resolutions1 dated February 7, 2003 and April 25, 2003, respectively, of the Sandiganbayan
Fifth Division2 ruled in the negative, finding that there was no inordinate delay in the
disposition of said case.3 cralawred
The facts of the case, relevant to the issue on hand, are as
On August 14, 1991,
Petitioner, along with several co-accused,
were charged before the Sandiganbayan with violation of Section 3(e) of
Republic Act No. 3019, otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices
Act.5 After arraignment and the presentation of the parties testimonial and
documentary evidence, the case was eventually submitted for decision on August
23, 1994 before the Second Division.
Thereafter, the case remained pending and unacted upon until the
reorganization of the Sandiganbayan pursuant to Administrative Order 266-97, and the case was unloaded to the newly created Fifth Division.
The case was originally assigned to Justice Godofredo
Later, it was re-assigned to
Justice Ma. Cristina G. Cortez-Estrada upon her assumption of office on
November 3, 1998.
In the early part of 2002, when Justice Cortez-Estrada was
writing the decision of the case, she found out that the Transcript of
Stenographic Notes (TSN) for November 26, 1993 was missing from the records
turned over to her.
Thus, the Clerk of
Court of the Fifth Division informed the parties of this development and
ordered them to attend a conference on April 19, 2002 to discuss the matter.
Instead of attending the conference, petitioner filed a comment
manifesting that he is strongly averse to any further proceeding occasioned by
the lack of stenographic notes, which contained his cross-examination, as he
should not be prejudiced by the fault or negligence of another. In the same
comment, he reserved his right to file a motion to dismiss.
On September 4, 2002, petitioner filed his Motion to Dismiss.6 There, petitioner argued that more than 8 years had elapsed since the case was
submitted for decision but the case remained undecided, resulting in a patent
denial of petitioners constitutional right to a speedy disposition of his case
and warranting its dismissal.
Sandiganbayan denied the motion to dismiss, as well as the subsequent motion
Petitioner now maintains that the Sandiganbayan acted with grave
abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in not
dismissing the case against him.
Section 16 of Article III of the Constitution guarantees the
right of all persons to a speedy disposition of their cases. Nevertheless,
this right is deemed violated only when the proceedings are attended by
vexatious, capricious and oppressive delays.7 Moreover, the determination of whether the delays are of said nature is
relative and cannot be based on a mere mathematical reckoning of time.
Particular regard must be taken of the facts and circumstances peculiar to each
case.8 As a guideline, the Court in Dela
Pea v. Sandiganbayan mentioned certain factors that should be
considered and balanced, namely: 1) length of delay; 2) reasons for the delay;
3) assertion or failure to assert such right by the accused; and 4) prejudice
caused by the delay.9 cralawred
Following these principles, the Court finds there was no
violation of petitioners right to a speedy disposition of his case. As
jurisprudential support, the Court recalls a decided case in point, Guerrero v. Court of Appeals .10 cralawred
In that case, the petitioner was charged with triple homicide
through reckless imprudence on November 16, 1971. The case was eventually submitted
for decision upon the filing of the last pleading on December 21, 1979. The
case was later re-assigned to two other judges before, on March 14, 1990, the
last judge found out that the transcript of stenographic notes was incomplete
and ordered the parties to have the same completed. When the parties could not
comply, the judge ordered the retaking of the testimonies of the witnesses. On
November 7, 1990, petitioner therein filed a motion to dismiss on the ground
that his right to a speedy trial had been violated by the failure to render a
The Court ruled that there was no such violation because
petitioner failed seasonably to assert his rights. Petitioner merely sat and
waited after the case was submitted for resolution in 1979. It was only in
1990, after the new judge ordered the retaking of the testimonies, that the
petitioner became zealous in invoking his right to speedy trial and
The Court reasoned, as
In the present case, there is no question that petitioner raised
the violation against his own right to speedy disposition only when the
respondent trial judge reset the case for rehearing. It is fair to assume that
he would have just continued to sleep on his right a situation amounting to
laches had the respondent judge not taken the initiative of determining the
non-completion of the records and of ordering the remedy precisely so he could
dispose of the case. The matter could have taken a different dimension if
during all those ten years between 1979 when accused filed his memorandum and
1989 when the case was re-raffled, the accused showed signs of asserting his
right which was granted him in 1987 when the new Constitution took effect, or
at least made some overt act (like a motion for early disposition or a motion
to compel the stenographer to transcribe stenographic notes) that he was not
waiving it. As it is, his silence would have to be interpreted as a waiver of
While this Court recognizes the right to speedy disposition quite
distinctly from the right to a speedy trial, and although this Court has always
zealously espoused protection from oppressive and vexatious delays not
attributable to the party involved, at the same time, we hold that a party's
individual rights should not work against and preclude the people's equally
important right to public justice. In the instant case, three people died as a
result of the crash of the airplane that the accused was flying. It appears to
us that the delay in the disposition of the case prejudiced not just the
accused but the people as well. Since the accused has completely failed to
assert his right seasonably and inasmuch as the respondent judge was not in a
position to dispose of the case on the merits due to the absence of factual
basis, we hold it proper and equitable to give the parties fair opportunity to
obtain (and the court to dispense) substantial justice in the premises.
In the same vein, petitioner herein failed seasonably to assert
his constitutional right to a speedy disposition of his case. During the 8-year
period, prior to the April 19, 2002 conference between the parties, petitioner
did not complain about the long delay in deciding his case. It was only after
the missing TSNs were brought to his attention that petitioner showed an interest
in the termination of his case.
WHEREFORE, the Petition for Certiorari is DISMISSED.Respondent Sandiganbayan is nonetheless urged to decide the case
within six months from the promulgation of this decision.
Panganiban, (Acting Chairman),
Ynares-Santiago, and Carpio, JJ., concur.
Davide, Jr., C.J., (Chairman),
on official leave.
1 Rollo, pp. 30-33 & 41-43.
2 SB Criminal Case No. 17018.
3 The first resolution also denied the Motions to Dismiss filed by petitioners co-accused,
Bravo, Jr. and Hinampas.
5 Section 3(e) Causing any undue injury to any party, including the Government,
or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference
in the discharge of his official, administrative or judicial functions through
manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This
provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government
corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions.
6 Accused Bravo, Jr. and Hinampas had earlier filed their respective motions to
dismiss on August 21, 2002.
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