MANILA, Philippines - Former Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Lauro L. Baja Jr. has asked the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division to defer issuance of warrants for his arrest on five criminal charges filed against him by the Office of the Ombudsman last March 29.
Baja also asked the graft court to suspend proceedings and to order a reinvestigation by the Ombudsman claiming he was denied due process because the informations were filed prematurely.
Assistant special prosecutor Jorge B. Espinal accused Baja of mishandling government funds amounting to $32,524.27 corresponding to the cost of repair to a townhouse located in New York City, which was occupied by the Philippine Mission to the UN, and supposed reimbursement for lost personal properties.
Baja was indicted on four counts of graft and one count of malversation of public funds penalized under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code.
In his nine-page motion filed through lawyers Pacifico A. Agabin and Rogelio A. Vinluan, the defendant said complainant Presidential Anti-Graft Commission furnished him only 77 pages of documents pertaining to the imputed offenses but his inquiries at the Ombudsman revealed there were more than 600 pages of documents on the case records.
“Defendant could not have refuted evidence which was not brought to his attention,” the defense argued.
Likewise, Baja said he has not seen documents relative to the questioned repair cost of the New York townhouse as well as questioned payroll papers for Mission employee, Josue Sanchez.
“Notwithstanding numerous questions of fact material to the case, the investigative officer never called for clarificatory hearing, during which defendant could have afforded the right to examine the abovementioned documents, as required by the rules of procedures of the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.
All these, he contends, point to an incomplete preliminary investigation in his cases as the Ombudsman only considered “one-sided evidence” in coming up with the indictments.