Sandigan reopens graft, malversation cases vs ex-envoy Lauro Baja

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 23 2019 05:16 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 4th Division has decided to reopen the case of former Ambassador to the United Nations Lauro Baja to allow him to present additional evidence in his graft and malversation of public funds cases.

The cases involve insurance claims for leaking pipes and stolen jewelry while Baja and his wife were posted in New York City.

In a resolution promulgated on January 10, the anti-graft court granted the motion for leave to reopen proceedings filed by Baja, citing Section 24, Rule 119 of the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.

The rule says that before finality of judgment, a judge may reopen proceedings either on his or her own volition or upon motion by any party.

“Essentially, jurisprudence states that the only controlling guideline for the reopening of cases is the paramount interest of justice, emphasizing that the remedy was meant to prevent a miscarriage of justice. Thus, in order to appease any suspicion of an alleged miscarriage of justice, the accused is allowed to present his additional evidence,” the court said in the resolution penned by Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz, with the concurrence of Division Chairperson Alex Quiroz and Associate Justice Bayani Jacinto.

Baja was convicted last year by the anti-graft court and was sentenced to 6 to 10 years for graft and 10 to 17 years for malversation for irregular withdrawals of insurance claims he made for leaking pipes in their New York City house and the stolen jewelry of his wife.

In his motion for leave, Baja said he wants to present additional evidence such as testimonies from the Commission on Audit and Lexington Insurance Corporation to prove that he did not violate any auditing circulars, and there was no misappropriation of funds as the insurance proceeds were used for the actual repairs in the residence.

The prosecution, however, dismissed the proposed additional evidence of Baja, noting that even if evidence such as receipts are presented by Baja, it does not follow that the court will accord them with probative value.

But with the court granting the motion of Baja, the hearing dates for the reception of additional defense evidence were set on March 4 and 5.