SC junks Delfin Lee's petition seeking to stop probe-A A +A
Tuesday, October 2, 2012
THE Supreme Court (SC) has turned down the petition filed by fugitive real estate honcho Delfin Lee seeking to stop the Department of Justice (DOJ) from prosecuting him in connection with the syndicated estafa charges filed against him and his real estate firm.
In a resolution, the High Court affirmed the ruling of the Court of Appeals last April that lifted the order of Judge Rolando Mislang of the Pasig City Regional Trial Court branch 167 stopping the DOJ from filing criminal charges against Lee over alleged anomalous housing projects in Pampanga amounting to P1.014 billion.
The SC likewise denied Lee's request for the issuance of a temporary restraining order and/or writ of preliminary injunction after finding no reversible error in the assailed decision of the CA.
Lee's failure to obtain a TRO from the SC means that the DOJ may now proceed with the filing of criminal charges of syndicated estafa, a non-bailable offense, against him and his co-accused, son Dexter Lee, executive vice president, chief finance officer and treasurer; Cristina Salagan and Cristina Sagun, heads of the Globe Asiatique Realty and Holdings Corp.'s accounting department and documentation department, respectively; and lawyer Alex Alvarez, an employee of Home Development Mutual Fund's (formerly Pagibig Fund) legal department.
"This is another significant development in the quest for justice – to have the fugitive Delfin Lee answer for his actions. The judiciary has consistently affirmed the findings of the DOJ on this particular case given the clear facts and the culpability of the respondents," said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in a statement.
"Having run out of legal options or remedies, Delfin Lee should now face the music and come out of hiding. He should not further strain the government’s resources by his continued evasion of a duly issued warrant of arrest," said added.
Warrants of arrest were issued against the respondents last May 22 by Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes of the Pampanga RTC branch 42. However, Lee and his co-accused had all evaded arrest.
In the ruling of the CA's 17th Division, penned by Associate Justice Franchito Diamante, the appellate court said Mislang's injunction order was issued with grave abuse of discretion insofar as it stopped the filing of charges before the trial court against Lee due to his existence of "a prejudicial question."
"Considering that no information has yet been filed against Lee and the action that was brought before the court a quo was one for injunction and damages, the public respondent Judge gravely erred when he took cognizance of Lee's prematurely filed petition and granted his prayer for the issuance of a TRO," the CA said.
Records show that in 2008, Globe Asiatique entered into a funding committed agreement with HDMF for its Xevera housing project in Mabalacat, Pampanga.
A year after, HDMF accused Lee of resorting to fraudulent representations in order to convince the agency to extend loans for the project by claiming that he already has existing buyers, and that these buyers were allegedly Pag-Ibig members qualified to apply for loans under the agency's housing loan program.
Lee allegedly made assurances that his company had properly evaluated the respective loan applications prior to endorsing them to Pag-Ibig.
From the 9,951 alleged Pag-Ibig borrowers in the Globe Asiatique deals, 1,000 could not be located, 400 denied applying for housing loans, and 200 had incomplete documents for the transaction.
On October 29, 2010, HDMF officer-in-charge Emma Linda Faria filed a complaint before the National Bureau of Investigation against Lee and other respondents. That same day, the NBI recommended to the DOJ the conduct of a preliminary investigation against GA and Lee and his-accused, for the crime of syndicated estafa constituting economic sabotage.
Subsequently, the DOJ formed a panel of prosecutors to investigate the complaint filed by HDMF through Faria. The prosecutors, after due hearing, found probable cause against Lee and other GA officers.
Mislang granted Lee’s petition for TRO in a resolution issued on September 9, 2011, prompting DOJ to go to the CA. (JCV/Sunnex)