MANILA - The Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of celebrity dermatologist Joel Mendez over his failure to remit P1.8-million worth of monthly Social Security System contributions of his employees.
In a resolution dated April 16, 2019, the CA Former Special Eighth Division denied Mendez’s plea for the court to reconsider its earlier ruling denying his petition. He had sought to annul his conviction by a Quezon City (QC) trial court.
In July 2016, QC Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 88 Judge Rossana Fe Romero-Maglaya sentenced Mendez to a jail term of 6 years and 1 day to 7 years for violating Republic Act 8282 or the Social Security Act of 1997.
The RTC found Mendez liable for the unpaid SSS contributions of his employees from October 2011 to January 2013 amounting to almost P1.87 million.
Mendez questioned the ruling before the Court of Appeals, claiming his right to due process was violated because of extrinsic fraud and procedural lapses allegedly committed by his lawyer. Extrinsic fraud is a ground to annul a court judgment.
Mendez claimed his lawyer did not attend the hearing where he was supposed to present his defense evidence and neither was he informed about it. He also faulted his lawyer for failing to set aside the trial court’s ruling declaring him to have waived his right to present evidence.
But the appellate court dismissed Mendez’s arguments, saying he is bound by the negligence of his lawyer and this negligence does not amount to extrinsic fraud.
“Fraud is not extrinsic if the alleged fraudulent act was committed by petitioner’s own counsel. The fraud must emanate from the act of the adverse party and must be of such nature as to deprive petitioner of its day in court,” wrote CA Associate Justice Edwin Sorongon.
“While indeed there are cases when the Court declared that gross or reckless negligence of counsel amounts to extrinsic fraud, but this is the exception rather than the general rule,” he added.
The court also faulted Mendez not knowing the status of his case.
In the same ruling, the appellate court denied Mendez’s plea for the entire CA division to inhibit from the case.
“[B]are allegations of bias are not enough in the absence of clear and convincing evidence to overcome the presumption that the judge will undertake his noble role to dispense justice according to law and evidence and without fear or favor,” CA said.
CA Associate Justices Sesinando Villon and Marie Christine Azcarraga-Jacob concurred in the CA resolution.
Mendez is also under trial on rape and attempted rape charges, for which he was arrested in July 2018. He immediately posted bail.
In 2016, he was also convicted for tax evasion and sentenced to a prison term of 1 to 3 years and a fine of P10,000.