MANILA – The Sandiganbayan 7th Division scolded Tuguegarao City Mayor Jefferson Soriano for "losing attention" during a videoconference hearing over his alleged involvement in the anomalous Philippine National Police (PNP) chopper deal when he was still a police general.
Following Supreme Court (SC) guidelines amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sandigabayan has been conducting virtual hearings to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
During the hearing last February 15, Soriano was slapped by the anti-graft court a P1,000 fine after he was held in contempt for his conduct during the proceeding.
In his motion for reconsideration, Soriano said he attended the virtual hearing from the city’s COVID-19 center which supposedly has the strongest wifi signal in the area.
He said he was not able to control the people who came to him with urgent pandemic-related concerns. This took his attention away from the hearing.
Soriano told the court that while the penalty is minimal, he would rather not have the stigma of being branded as disrespectful to the court.
He maintained his shortcoming was an honest lapse and not accompanied by any thought of dishonesty, rudeness, insolence or incivility.
The court granted Soriano’s appeal in a resolution dated February 17, 2021.
"He invokes that he absolutely meant no disrespect to the court and was only caught up by unexpected circumstances," the court noted in the resolution signed by Division Chairperson Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Zaldy Trespeses and Georgina Hidalgo.
"Mayor Soriano is, however, warned that a similar incident in the future will be dealt with more seriously," the court added.
Soriano figured in news headlines late last year when photos of him celebrating his birthday with his family in Batangas circulated online while his home city was being ravaged by flashfloods brought by Typhoon Ulysses.