A PRACTICING lawyer has filed an administrative complaint for gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct before the Internal Affairs Unit of the National Prosecution Service of the Department of Justice (DOJ) against a Cebu City prosecutor for delaying a resolution of a case. In his five-page complaint also addressed to DOJ Sec. Menardo Guevara, Presidential Complaint Center and the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), lawyer Arnold Cugal accused Cebu City Prosecutor Liceria Lofranco Rabillas of committing gross neglect of duty and grave misconduct on what the lawyer alleged as “super delay” in the resolution of his case pending before the prosecutor’s office.
Cugal, in his affidavit of complaint, alleged that in October 2019, he filed a case of falsification of public documents against a private respondent (name intentionally withheld by this columnist). Under the Rules of Court, the prosecutor’s office, has to resolve the case within a 60-day period. The lawyer said that the resolution could have been made even before the onset of the Covid-19 lockdown, which started on March 30, 2020.
In order to remind Rabillas of the 60-day period resolution, Cugal filed a motion for resolution of the case on Feb. 14, 2020. Still, it had not been acted upon even until today. Cugal also alleged that he discovered through a published report that the lawyer of the person he charged was once lawyering for Rabillas in his previous case. (Name of the lawyer is also intentionally withheld by this columnist).
Cugal said that this is not the first time that Rabillas committed gross neglect in the performance of her duty and said he is contemplating of filing more charges against her, saying that this practice has to stop. He said that “if this practice would continue, then time will come that the citizens of this country would no longer believe in our criminal justice system and may put the law in their own hands.”
Cugal did not mention in his complaint the assistant prosecutor who handled the case of falsification of public document he filed. I understand the procedure there is that an assistant prosecutor will investigate and resolve the case, then have it reviewed by a fiscal before it reaches the city prosecutor’s table for approval of the filing or dismissal of the case.
Cugal said, citing the report he gathered that the lawyer of the person he charged was also lawyering for Rabillas in a previous case, the prosecutor should have inhibited herself from handling the case. Cugal vowed to press more criminal charges against Rabillas for violation of Republic Act 3019, also known as the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
Well, delay in resolving cases either at the prosecutor’s office or at the ombudsman and even in the courts is a perennial problem in our prosecution service and judiciary. Case backlog and consequent delay in the disposition of cases can be attributed to inefficiency, incompetence, sloth or laziness, corruption and conflict of interest of these officials and delaying tactics of some lawyers. Factors arising from the adversary nature of the judicial process and the constitutional requirement of due process of law also cause judicial delays.
If there is a main culprit in the delay of resolution of cases, it is the DOJ itself. I have experienced it. Presently, I am facing four libel cases in courts (two libel cases under the Revised Penal Code and two others under cyberlibel). When the prosecutor’s office filed the cases, I filed a petition for review before the DOJ and until now it has not been resolved. I was already served warrants of arrest, posted bail and arraigned. How can we achieve justice if this is the kind of justice system we have in our country.
Court delay is costly to the parties to the case and to society as a whole. The lapsed time between the filing of a case and its resolution lessens the chances that the dispute will be justly decided, witnesses may die or disappear and memories can fade. Mao nay gi-ingon sa Binisaya nga “usahay kining kaso, abtan tag-siyam-siyam.”