The first courtroom meeting between the “bully and the bullied” had to be reset, with the accused penalized for not showing up.
A Quezon City court ordered the arrest of Robert Blair Carabuena—the tobacco firm executive who sparked public outrage last year after being caught on video assaulting a civilian traffic officer— for being a no-show at his arraignment Thursday.
The judge also doubled the amount of his bail and readied sanctions against his lawyer for also missing the proceedings.
When the case was called at the sala of Metropolitan Trial Court Judge Juris Dilinila-Callanta, a woman claiming to be a representative of Carabuena’s lawyer Caesar Ortega meekly explained to the judge that the lawyer had to attend another hearing and that his ailing client also could not make it.
Despite being shown a medical certificate on Carabuena’s condition, Callanta said being sick was not among the valid grounds for suspending an arraignment.
The judge ordered Carabuena arrested, doubled the P12,000 bail that was earlier imposed on the motorist, and ordered Ortega to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for his absence.
Carabuena, a human resources officer of Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Corp. (PMFTC), faces charges of direct assault filed by Saturnino Fabros, a traffic constable of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority.
Fabros, who was in court for the arraignment, looked disappointed by Carabuena’s absence and told reporters that he was bent on pursuing the criminal case.
He was accompanied by lawyer Rochelle Macapili-Ona of the MMDA legal department, who noted before the judge that Carabuena previously cited his illness as an excuse for skipping the preliminary investigation of the case at the city prosecutor’s office.
The case stemmed from a traffic altercation between the two men on Aug. 11, 2012, when Carabuena allegedly badmouthed and slapped Fabros at the intersection of Capitol Hills Drive and Katipunan Avenue in Old Balara, Quezon City.
The incident was caught on a phone video taken by a TV5 researcher who happened to be at the spot. The clip made headlines, quickly went viral and made Carabuena a target of online bashing for weeks.
In his counter-affidavit, Carabuena argued that he hit the MMDA constable in the face with his hat because he felt insulted and was provoked by Fabros, who purportedly showed arrogance during that encounter.
He said it was the MMDA constable who insulted him first when he blocked his Volvo at the intersection, and that he only responded in “reaction to what was done to me.”
The accused also pointed out that his parents were in the car at the time, and that he was just defending their dignity.
Carabuena issued a public apology days after the incident, but the MMDA did not withdraw the charges.
Judge Callanta rescheduled the arraignment as well as the pretrial hearing on March 7.
Hearing about the arrest warrant, MMDA Chair Francis Tolentino said Carabuena “has to face the consequences.”
“It seems like every time there’s a hearing, he’s sick,” he told the Inquirer. “He has done this so many times that I’ve lost track.”
Last month, the Land Transportation Office dismissed the MMDA’s request seeking the permanent revocation of Carabuena’s license to drive.
Originally posted at 12:35 pm | Thursday, February, 07, 2013