A photocopy of the minutes of the proceedings of the Sandiganbayan 1st Division raised serious doubts of its authenticity after it was released to the media – 29 days after it was approved.
A photocopy of the minutes of the Sandiganbayan 1st Division proceedings held on November 2, 2015 Â “finds that sufficient grounds exist for the finding of probable cause for the purpose of issuing a warrant of arrest against accused charged in the instant case”.
The purported minutes was released to the media yesterday, November 28, 2015 by one of the complainants, Atty. Victor De La Serna together with a photocopy of an October 30, 2015 order directing the Bureau of Immigration to hold the departure of the nine of the sixteen accused.
Not one of the sixteen accused and their lawyers except De La Serna got hold of the Sandiganbayan order.
The Sandiganbayan 1st Division ordered the issuance of warrants of arrest to fifteen of the accused in the sale of province owned water and electric utilities considered manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government.
However, Atty. Lord “Popot” Marapao, lV, legal spokesman and counsel of Relampagos, when informed by theÂ ChronicleÂ about the Sandiganbayan order issued a statement “We did not receive a copy of the minutes on November 2, 2015. We have yet to verify that considering that our omnibus motion was heard last November 5, 2015”.
Marapao also disclosed that “We maintain that the omnibus motion was given due course and the Honorable Sandiganbayan has yet to resolve it after filing our reply 10 days from receipt of the Office of the Special Prosecutor’s comments”.
Marapao continued “The State was given 15 days to file its comments which up to this time we have not received the same”.
TO BAIL OR NOT TO BAIL
1st District Congressman Rene Relampagos is now placed in a dilemma whether to post bail while awaiting the resolution of his omnibus motion filed with the Sandiganbayan.
Relampagos, unaware that an order was issued for the arrest of all of the accused in the celebrated graft case involving fifteen present and former top officials of the Provincial Government of Bohol, opted not to post bail as part of their legal strategy to exhaust all legal remedies.
The Sandiganbayan order came out four days before the November 5, 2015 hearing of Relampagos omnibus motion toÂ to “dismiss based on lack of probable cause and/or to quash the information for violation of accused’s right to speedy disposition of cases”.
Dennis Villareal, the lone accused private individual that included fifteen government officials was excepted by the warrant since he posted bail before the order came out.
Apparently documents pertaining to the posting of bail by the seven other accused, before the November 2, 2015 order for Â the issuance of warrants of arrests was not received by the court prior to the issuance of the order.
The seven accused who earlier posted bail in anticipation of the issuance of warrants of arrest by the Sandiganbayan were Governor Edgar Chatto, Vice Governor Concepcion Lim, former Board Members Isabelito Tongco, Exequiel Madrinan, Felix Uy, Board Member Tomas Abapo, Jr., and former Provincial Atty. Inocentes Lopez, while former Board Members Arnold Lungay and Eufracio Mascarinas are reportedly out of the country.
The seven accused posted the Php30 thousand bail bond approved by Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 47 Presiding Judge Suceso Arcamo Â on October 29, 2015 at the RTC, Clerk of Court for Multiple Sala, Atty. Romulo Puagang.
NO LEGAL PERSONALITY
Marapao also clarified that “We were only in receipt of a copy of the comments filed by a certain lawyer who has not been authorized by the State to represent it to which, Congressman Relampagos will file the appropriate pleading in due time”.
Atty. Victor De La Serna filed with the Sandiganbayan on November 21, 2015 a Consolidated Opposition to the Multiple Motiions filed by Relampagos and Villareal copy furnished the legal counsels of the accused.
According to Marapao, “These press releases by this lawyer who has no legal standing in the case only bolsters Congressman Relampagos’ belief that the motive for such misleading and malicious statements is political”.
The brewing “trial by publicity” allegedly orchestrated by De La Serna gained momentum after the public was treated to an alleged photo or “mugshot” that was perceived to put Relampagos to public ridicule.
Captioned “Technically at Large. Although he has filed a motion to Dismiss, Reported to be in the US with his family (as of Nov 10, 2015)”, as reported and printed in one of the local papers.
Relampagos andÂ Congresswoman Elisa Kho of the 2nd District of Masbate and member for the majority of the House Tourism CommitteeÂ were in the US to represent the Philippines in the Dive Equipment and Marketing Association (DEMA) Show held in Orlando, Florida, USA held from November 3-8, 2015.
Relampagos who was with his wife and not his family as claimed by De La Serna also clarified that the HDO issued by the Sandiganbayan was received by his legal counsels after he arrived from the US and is a legal procedure for all accused.
The Ombudsman filed a criminal complaint against the ten government officials and a private businessman for allegedly selling the assets and franchise of the water and electric systems owned by the Provincial Government of Bohol to the SALCON consortium.
The criminal case docketed as Criminal Case No. SB 15-0283 with the Sandiganbayan alleged that the water and electric system were sold for only a total of Php150 million despite the fact that the combined value of both utilities is Php782 million.
The graft case was based on a complaint filed by six Boholano lawyers led by Atty. Victor De La Serna.
But the accused maintained that the water and electric deal was above board and with the water and electric consumers enjoying the fruits of the assailed Joint Venture AgreementÂ (Chito M. Visarra)