MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Justice (DOJ) is bent on pursuing the syndicated estafa case against realty firm Globe Asiatique (GA) owner Delfin Lee and four others, which the Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said on Tuesday.
The dropping of GA documentation department head Christina Sagun from the syndicated estafa case was “not yet final and executory,’’ De Lima said.
She said the DOJ would “fight to sustain the syndicated estafa case in its entirety, including (charging) Sagun.’’
“We will not settle for anything less than [a] syndicated estafa [charge],’’ she added.
Speaking to reporters, De Lima said the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) had yet to receive a copy of the Feb. 11 decision of the appellate court’s Tenth Division dismissing the syndicated estafa case against Lee, Sagun, Lee’s son Dexter, GA executive Cristina Salangan and Pag-Ibig lawyer Alex Alvarez.
They were accused of using fake documents and ghost borrowers to obtain more than P7 billion in loans from the government Pag-IBIG Fund for GA housing projects in Pampanga. GA buyers found there were multiple owners of their units in some cases, while in others, loans were taken out in the name of persons who had no idea their names were used.
De Lima said that upon receiving a copy of the CA decision, the DOJ, through the OSG, would file the “appropriate’’ petition in the Supreme Court.
”…(A)nd as for as long as the DOJ through the OSG files the appropriate petition in the high court, the Court of Appeal’s decision is not yet final and executory,’’ De Lima said.
She said she could not understand why Sagun was dropped from the syndicated estafa case. The Court of Appeals said it had found her functions in the real estate company to be simply ministerial.
De Lima said she had read the state prosecutors’ resolution recommending the filing of a syndicated estafa case against Lee and the others and “there was enough basis to include Sagun’’ in the charge.
But with the dropping of Sagun from the case, the syndicated estafa case was also dismissed against Lee and the three others since the law provides that a syndicated estafa complaint could only be filed against a group of at least five accused.
De Lima said she had asked the state prosecutors to study the “consequences’’ of the Supreme Court’s affirming the appellate court’s decision and the remedies available to the DOJ.
“Because we want the charge of syndicated estafa to stick, to remain because it’s a non-bailable offense,’’ she said. With the dismissal of the syndicated estafa case, Lee and the others may be charged only with simple estafa or fraud for which the bail may be posted.
De Lima, meanwhile, said the search for Lee and the rest of the “Big Five’’ wanted fugitives had gone cold.
Aside from Lee, fugitives that continue to evade capture are retired Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, former Palawan Gov. Joel Reyes and his brother, ex-Coron Mayor Mario Reyes, and former Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr.
De Lima said teams from the Philippine National Police and National Bureau of Investigation continued to hunt for them but there has been no recent significant developments in their search.
“Ang gagaling nila magtago (They’re very good at hiding),’’ she said.