MANILA, Philippines – The arrest warrant against Globe Asiatique (GA) founder Delfin Lee, his son, and 3 others was deemed recalled after the Court of Appeals (CA) stood by its earlier ruling dismissing syndicated estafa charges against one of the accused.
In a ruling dated February 11 but made public only now, the CA former Special 10th Division upheld its earlier decision which said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) erred in charging Cristina Sagun, head of GA’s documentation department, with syndicated estafa, a non-bailable crime.
Sagun—along with GA President Lee, his son Dexter, GA Accounting Head Cristina Salagan and Pag-IBIG lawyer Alex Alvarez—were charged over alleged P7-billion housing loans extended to “ghost” borrowers.
The CA, on October 5, 2012, found no probable cause to indict Sagun for syndicated estafa, saying there was no sufficient evidence proving she had knowledge of the alleged fraudulent acts of Lee and others.
Because of the dismissal of the charges against Sagun, the charges against the others were reduced to estafa, a bailable crime.
“If only less than 5 persons are charged for syndicated estafa, the estafa or swindling cannot be committed by a syndicate,” the CA said in the February decision penned by Justice Angelica Gacutan. “To hold otherwise would be to deny such persons of the right to bail thus, violating their constitutional right to due process and liberty.”
The dismissal of the charges against Sagun made the information filed by the DOJ flawed, and it could therefore not serve as basis for the issuance of an arrest warrant.
The CA said though that authorities could still file new information against Lee and others.
Judge Maria Amifaith Fider-Reyes of Pampanga Regional Trial Court Branch 42 ordered the issuance of the arrest warrant against Lee and others in May 2012 upon the filing of the information by DOJ.
The Home Development Mutual Fund, also called Pag-IBIG, filed a case against the 5 after nearly P7 billion financing loans GA obtained from the agency were linked to ghost buyers. – with reports from Purple Romero/Rappler.com