Bzzzzz: Mayor's talk with Beltran in jail may be used by her lawyers against Labella

CEBU. Atty. Vincent Isles (left) and businesswoman Maria Victoria Beltran. (SunStar File/Beltran's Facebook page)
CEBU. Atty. Vincent Isles (left) and businesswoman Maria Victoria Beltran. (SunStar File/Beltran's Facebook page)

CEBU City Mayor Edgardo Labella visited and talked with Maria Victoria Beltran, the businesswoman-Facebook user who is charged with three crimes by the police for posting a comment on the news of Covid-19 infection in Sitio Zapatera, Barangay Luz.

Beltran was arrested Sunday dawn, April 19, submitted to an inquest by prosecutors Monday and was released on a P42,000 bail Tuesday. The visit was made "the day after her arrest," a news story said.

"Something was violated" by the mayor, Atty. Vincent Isles told Bzzzzz Tuesday, April 21. He said he still had to talk with "Bambi" and get the details. Atty. Amando Ligutan, another lawyer for Beltran, said in a cable TV interview that their colleague on the case, Atty. Ben Militar, was refused entry into the jail because the mayor was still there. It wasn't clear if Militar was just made to wait but did finally meet their client.

Under the law on the rights of the detainee under custodial investigation, Republic Act #7438, the accused "shall at all times be assisted by counsel" and his lawyer "shall at all times be allowed to confer with" the person held in custody.

Does the phrase "at all times" mean that the assistance of, and conference with, the lawyer be not delayed at any time, especially that she was talking with the public official who reportedly ordered her detention?

Lawyers' strategy

Unlike other persons who were brought to account for their alleged circulation of false information -- most of whom said they were sorry, pleading for forgiveness -- Beltran meekly yielded to the police "invitation" to the police station but in the same news cycle already vowed, through Atty. Isles,

to charge those who were responsible for her ordeal.

And unlike those other suspects, Beltran comes with a "battery" of lawyers and waves the written support of various organizations, including the Free Legal Assistance Group. Atty. Isles, who defended and got off that boy who was initially suspected of the March 2019 murder of 16-year-old student Christine Silawan in Lapu-Lapu City, has admitted he wants to "control the narrative" and tap public support to their client.

Isles told Bzzzzz "we are still formulating a specific legal strategy on what to hit the Hon. Edgar Labella" regarding that visit to Beltran "even before charges were filed." But the hitting already began with Atty. Lagutin, in his interview, accusing the mayor of being "hypocritical" when Labella said it was not he who sent Beltran to jail.

Tomas Osmena 'connection'

A number of people, including a print-broadcast journalist, suspected, without showing evidence, that Bambi Beltran must be a supporter of former mayor Tomas Osmeña.

That would add the element of politics into the anti-Beltran action, which Mayor Labella insists is "nothing personal."

The only common thread, if there is one, is the inclusion of Atty. Militar who is known to be one of Tomas's favorite lawyers (he lawyered for him in one libel case against broadcaster-columnist Bobby Nalzaro). You heard the saying, "Follow the money that pays the lawyer..."

Atty. Isles has rejected the suspicion, explaining that he was quarantined away from the city, and only Militar was available at the time for that phase of the case.

Who is Bambi Beltran?

The data about Beltran, as she declares in LinkedIn, include: execom member, National Historical Commission for Culture, the Arts-Cinema Committee, National Commission for the Culture and the Arts, since March 2011; script writer, actress, director and independent filmmaker, since 2007, and a dive instructor.

Her "latest acting assignment": as Sakina in "Las Cartas de Soledad." She directed "Agokoy, Ugma na Ko Mo-asoy." She has owned and managed Kukuk's Nest Garden Restaurant and Pension House since 1989.

There's talk, yet unconfirmed, that Mayor Labella had named her before as member of some cultural commission at City Hall. But she has not included that in her bio.

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