JUST as the play’s the thing whereby Hamlet planned to catch the conscience of the king, it must have been through the visit whereby the lady judge wanted to see through the screen that hid the accused’s play.
Mid-last week, Judge Florencia Abbu of Branch 47 of the Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court conducted an occular inspection of the actual whereabouts of Legacy Group owner Celso de los Angeles. She must have realized, though rather belatedly (all realizations by definition are post factum), that De los Angeles must have last December pulled wool over her eyes. Hence, last week’s attempt to see with her own eyes what was what.
In a gesture of justice with a heart, the good judge in an order dated 17 December 2009 found De los Angeles’ “motion to be impressed with merit” and thus “for humanitarian considerations”, granted De los Angeles’ motion to be transferred to Cathedral Heights Building Complex, purportedly within the compound of St. Luke’s Medical Center.
The fiscal assigned to her court had not opposed the motion because the Department of Justice had earlier organized a Special Panel of Prosecutors to handle the Legacy case and the local fiscal’s role was reduced to simply to “monitoring” the proceedings. The Special Panel of Prosecutors, to my knowledge, was not given prior notice of the December motion and so learned only of the incident after receipt of the court order allowing the transfer. An all-too smart way of exploiting holes in the bureaucracy, of the same kind as the all-too smart way Celso de los Angeles had taken advantage of the gaps in the law on deposit insurance coverage.
But the blinding wool must have been a wee bit translucent. The good judge, in prudent measure, qualified her order: “subject to the condition that the prosecution and/or authorities holding him under detention at the hospital do not file any valid objection later.”
The objection did not take long in coming. The Special Panel of Prosecutors of the Department of Justice, upon learning of the good judge’s 17 December order, filed its Objection and Motion; objection to the allowance of De los Angeles to say at the Cathedral Heights Building Complex (in lieu of hospital or jail) and motion to direct the National Bureau of Investigation or any of its deputized agents or any officer of the law to implement the warrant of arrest against De los Angeles and deliver him to the nearest police station or jail in accordance with the Rules of Court.
Celso de los Angeles, lest we forget, is accused of syndicated estafa and economic sabotage effected by means of a carefully hatched plan that included leaving the empty bag of the depositors of his rural banks with emptied accounts at the doorstep of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation, an agency headed at this time by someone most likely known to him. Most likely because the agency head’s brother is said to have invested, too, in De los Angeles’s companies.
Purportedly because he needed a medical procedure for an ailment on his throat, Celso de los Angeles had checked in at St. Luke’s Medical Center, in Quezon City. His doctors, in what seems to me, medical gobbledygook, maintain that he who had parted people with their money had to be parted from the maddening crowd, or at least from the crowd that is very mad at him. The doctors say he is in an “immono compromised state” which means, according to the doctors, “he could get easily infected by other sick people.” Hence, his isolation.
Apparently, if the doctors’ recommendation is to be taken at face value, their implication is that the hospital they work in, which is undoubtedly one of the best hospitals in Asia, does not have the facilities that could provide the “isolation” De los Angeles needed; hence, their suggested that their sick patient had to be transferred to Unit 1703 at Cathedral Heights Building Complex which (and here’s wool) was “within the Compound of St. Luke’s Medical Center.”
What the good judge must have seen, with her own eyes this time without the wool pulled over her by De los Angeles, was an eighteen-floor condominium building adjacent to St. Luke’s Medical Center which was not part of the St. Luke’s Hospital.
Many of its units are offices of St. Luke’s doctors where their outpatients patiently wait in line to be attended to. To attend to the needs of this ambulant population, there is nearby a hamburger joint, with drive through facilities. The upper floors, like many mixed-use buildings, are residential units, and Celso De los Angeles seems to have rented a unit on the 17th floor owned by a doctor. This population mix within and at the vicinity of the building is not bad, apparently, for De los Angeles’s “immono compromised state.”
Because Cathedral Heights Building Complex is not part of the hospital, it is unlikely that the good judge might have seen any medical equipment or supplies in Celso de los Angeles’s rented unit. He could be undergoing, though, some form of alternative medical therapy since the talk is that he sleeps in the company of a very caring caregiver and is on a diet of 10 penoy baluts every night, a regimen usually resorted to enable one to rise to the occasion, whatever that might be. The alternative therapy must have been effective; Celso de los Angeles appears able to rise from bed and proceed to the comfort room without much need for the aid of his constant companion.
The good judge must have had her own internal “Eureka” moment after the visit had lifted the wool over her eyes and the blinding scales had fallen. But, as a good judge should, she would, I am certain, go through the process laid down by law. By mid-March, things should get moving thick and fast for the Legacy victims at Cagayan de Oro. Lady Justice would be done with the weighing scales by then and would be ready to give her sword a swing or two.
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