CA: Delfin Lee can't leave Philippines

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Mar 07 2014 03:03 AM | Updated as of Mar 07 2014 11:03 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has thumbed down the bid of Globe Asiatique president Delfin Lee to freely leave the country after being exonerated in the P6.6-billion syndicated estafa case in connection with its allegedly anomalous housing projects in Pampanga.

In a three-page resolution, the CA’s special former 15th Division junked the motion of Lee seeking to lift the hold departure order (HDO) issued against him by the San Fernando, Pampanga regional trial court (RTC).

“It is settled that courts cannot grant a relief not prayed for in the pleadings or in excess of what is being sought by the party. They cannot also grant a relief without first ascertaining the evidence presented in support thereof. Due process considerations require that judgments must conform to and be supported by the pleadings and evidence presented in court,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Franchito Diamante.

“As the parties were not heard by the Court on the issue of the lifting of the hold departure order against petitioner, it cannot enter an order which is beyond those prayed for in the petition brought before it,” it added.

The CA stressed that it is improper to issue an order that “exceeds the scope of relief sought by the pleadings, absent notice which affords opposing party an opportunity to be heard with respect to the proposed relief.”

It also merely “noted” petitioner’s motion for clarificatory judgment seeking that it categorically declare the dismissal of the syndicated estafa case filed against him.

Associate Justices Melchor Sadang and Agnes Reyes-Carpio concurred with this ruling.

The same CA division, in a decision issued on Nov. 7 last year, granted Lee’s petition and ordered the recall and lifting of the arrest warrant against him.

The CA had enjoined Pampanga RTC Branch 42 Presiding Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes from further hearing the case as it held that the latter committed grave abuse of discretion in finding probable cause against Lee and his co-accused for the crime of syndicated estafa.

The CA held that the DOJ committed grave abuse of discretion in filing the syndicated estafa case against Lee and four others. It explained that Lee could not longer be prosecuted for syndicated estafa, which requires at least five respondents.

The CA also pointed out that his co-accused, Cristina Sagun, an executive of his company, was earlier absolved by the CA.