CA decision may lead to recall of arrest warrant vs Delfin Lee

by Ina Reformina,

Posted at Feb 18 2013 05:15 PM | Updated as of Feb 19 2013 12:14 PM

MANILA, Philippines - In a ruling that could affect and downgrade the non-bailable syndicated estafa case against Globe Asiatique's Delfin Lee, the Court of Appeals (CA) ordered the nullification of the criminal case and lifting of the warrant of arrest against his co-accused, Cristina Sagun.

In a 16-page resolution by the Former Special Tenth Division dated Feb. 11, penned by Associate Justice Angelita Gacutan, the appellate court junked the motions for reconsideration (MR) filed by the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF or Pag-Ibig Fund) on the Oct. 5 decision of the court alleging that the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion in including Sagun, GA documentation chief, in the information filed before a Pampanga trial court.

"[W]e find the matter raised in the said motions to be mere rehash of the previous arguments of the movants which have been sufficiently passed upon by this court in its decision dated Oct. 5, 2012," the resolution read.

Addressing the argument in the MR that Sagun should have exhausted all other legal remedies first before elevating her case to the appellate court, the resolution stated that in her case, "there is irreparable injury to be addressed requiring urgent judicial intervention... petitioner is in clear and imminent danger of being incarcerated."

The case stems from an allegedly questionable P6 billion loan given to the buyers of GA by Pag-Ibig.

The appellate court echoed its position in its Oct. decision that it was "absurd" for Pag-Ibig and the DOJ to hold Sagun responsible for determining whether or not the GA housing loan applicants were actual members of the Pag-Ibig fund.

Lee, Sagun, Christina Salagan (former GA Documentation Dept. head), Atty. Alex Alvarez (Pag-ibig), and Lee's son, Dexter were all charged for syndicated estafa for the alleged offense.

Syndicated estafa exists when a group of at least 5 persons participated in the commission of estafa. With the dismissal of charges against Sagun ordered by the CA, the accused will now be down to four, thereby raising the possibility that the charge against Lee and company will be downgraded to simple estafa, a bailable offense, that carries with it a penalty of life imprisonment.

Should the case against Lee be downgraded to simple estafa, the warrant for his arrest on syndicated estafa may also be recalled by the trial court.

However, in its ruling, the CA specified that the ruling on Sagun's petition "is without prejudice to the filing by the Dept. of Justice of other appropriate criminal charges if warranted, against the other accused."