Sandigan junks Romualdez case on technicality
The Sandiganyan has junked the $5.1-million forfeiture case against Benjamin Romualdez, the late younger brother of Ilocos Norte 2nd District Rep. Imelda Marcos.
In a decision made available to the media yesterday, the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division dismissed the case, saying it should have been filed by the Office of the Solicitor General and not the Ombudsman.
Also tagged a co-respondent in the case filed in August 2011 was Romualdez’s wife Juliette.
The Ombudsman asked the Sandiganbayan to forfeit properties and assets of the couple in the amount of $5,193,726.37, alleging they were ill-gotten wealth.
The court said the Ombudsman’s authority is restricted to cases involving ill-gotten wealth amassed after February 25, 1986.
“The petition (filed by the Ombudsman) alleges that the ill-gotten wealth was acquired during respondent Benjamin Romualdez’s ‘incumbency as provincial governor of the province of Leyte and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to Peking, Jeddah and Washington D.C.,” the ruling said.
“Clearly then, the alleged ill-gotten wealth could have only been amassed before 25 February 1986 since, as pointed out by respondents, respondent Benjamin Romualdez was no longer a public official after 25 February 1986.”
The Sandiganbayan said it recognized the fact that the Office of the Ombudsman has the authority to investigate forfeiture cases but it should have referred its resolution to the OSG.
The decision said further: “As it stands, the present petition should be dismissed for lack of authority of the (Ombudsman) to file the same.”
The case, it was gathered, may be re-filed by the Solicitor General since the dismissal of the Ombudsman’s petition was “without prejudice to its re-filing” by the OSG.
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