MANILA - The Sandiganbayan 3rd Division has twice rejected the plea bargaining agreement between government prosecutors and former Puerto Princesa mayor Edward Hagedorn on 9 counts each of graft, perjury and violation of the code of ethics for public officials for the supposed misdeclaration of his wealth for 9 years.
In a resolution promulgated on February 24, 2020, the court denied the motion for reconsideration Hagedorn filed to seek the reversal of the denial of the plea bargaining agreement last year.
In his motion for reconsideration, Hagedorn stated that he never misdeclared his assets but at the same time pointed out that there are no clear guidelines for government officials and employees on the filing of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth.
“It is settled that the presence or absence of the elements of the crime is evidentiary in nature and is a matter of defense that may be best passed upon after a full-blown trial on the merits,” the court said in the resolution penned by Presiding Justice and Division Chairperson Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Ronald Moreno.
Hagedorn is facing a total of 27 cases for supposedly misdeclaring his net worth from 2004 to 2012.
He had sought the dismissal of the cases on the basis of inordinate delay but the court was not persuaded.
In the plea bargaining agreement, a maximum amount of P5,000 can be slapped against Hagedorn for each count of violation of Section 8 of Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
“Approving such an agreement would be the height of disservice to the public and utterly opposite to the court’s mandate to uphold the highest norms of official conduct towards the attainment of a graft-free country,” the court said.