Globe Asiatique execs get reprieve from appellate court-A A +A
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
THE Court of Appeals (CA) dismissed Wednesday the criminal charges against one of the executives of Globe Asiatique Holdings Corp., implicitly downgrading the syndicated estafa charges against real estate honcho Delfin Lee in connection with the alleged anomalous housing projects of the company in Pampanga amounting to P6 billion.
In the 34-page decision penned by Associate Justice Angelita Gacutan, the CA's Special 10th Division set aside and turned down for lack of evidence the Department of Justice's (DOJ) finding of probable cause against petitioner Christina Sagun, head of GA's documentation department for syndicated estafa.
Aside from Sagun and Lee, who is GA's president and chief executive officer, other respondents in the case are Lee's son Dexter Lee, executive vice president; chief finance officer and treasurer; Cristina Salagan, head of the accounting department; and Atty. Alex Alvarez, an employee of Home Development Mutual Fund's (formerly Pag-Ibig Fund) legal department.
The CA acknowledged that its ruling may have some "legal implication" on the information filed against the other accused since it effectively reduced the criminal charge against the four remaining respondents to simple estafa.
For syndicated estafa to prosper, there has to be at least five respondents acting in conspiracy with one another.
The downgraded charges will also enable Lee, who remains at large, to post bail for his provisional liberty while the case on the merit is being heard at the Makati Regional Trial Court.
In clearing Sagun, the CA said she is only liable for simple negligence, since based on evidence presented, her duties are ministerial in nature and do not require the employment of much discretion or discreet judgment.
The appellate court said that petitioner's duties, as found by the DOJ, are confined to collating and checking if the documents submitted by borrowers/buyers, through GA’s marketing department, are complete and duly accomplished, and verifying from Pag-Ibig whether or not buyers have updated contributions and are qualified to apply for housing loans.
"Concededly, there would be some errors along the way as petitioner performed her duties, considering the sheer volumes of papers piling on her desk. But these errors are attributed to her negligence... Except for her negligence, the (DOJ) has not demonstrated how petitioner could have been privy to the creation of the so-called 'special buyers' such that she was conscious all along that she was committing a serious non-bailable crime as syndicated estafa," the Court ruled.
"Clearly, therefore, evidence against petitioner is utterly insufficient to prove her knowledge and participation in the alleged fraudulent acts of GA and its officers," the CA added.
Sought for reaction, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the CA's dismissal of Sagun's case will not necessarily jeopardize the charges against the principle respondents.
"In any case, such dismissal cannot yet attain finality since we will question that via a motion for reconsideration," she said in a text message.
Last week, the Supreme Court rendered a ruling junking the petition filed by the fugitive Lee seeking to stop the DOJ from prosecuting him for syndicated estafa.
A warrant of arrest was issued against Lee and his alleged cohorts last May 22 by Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes of the Pampanga RTC branch 42. However, Lee and his co-accused had all evaded arrest.
Records showed 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. (JCV/Sunnex)