MANILA, Philippines?The arraignment of eight top officials of the LBC Group of Companies charged with defrauding a pre-need firm was moved to May after their lawyers asked for a postponement while they waited for the resolution of their pending motions before a Mandaluyong court.
None of the eight LBC officials showed up for the 1p.m. hearing, but their lawyers said they were in the area, and that they were only trying to avoid a news photographer who wanted to take their pictures.
Judge Esteban Tacla Jr. of the Mandaluyong City Regional Trial Court Branch 208 moved the arraignment?a process in which the accused person enters a plea?to May 25 to give himself time to resolve the pending motions, including one that sought to quash of the charges.
In a related development, private prosecutor Juanito Velasco Jr. said he has filed a motion for the issuance of hold departure orders against the accused, but Tacla said he would act on if the earlier motions had been resolved.
Earlier, Tacla issued warrants for the arrest of LBC directors and officers Juan Carlos G. Araneta, Carlos R. Araneta, Javier C. Montecon, Joseph Jeffrey B. Rodriguez, Marilyn R. Aben, Ma. Theresa F. Rañeses, Ma. Eliza G. Berenguer and Marilou B. Olan.
The arrest warrants were issued on March 2. Except for Rañeses, all of the accused have posted bail of P40,000 each, court records showed.
In a Feb. 19 order, the court said it found ?probable cause necessitating [the] issuance of warrants of arrest against all accused? based on the evidence presented by the prosecution, including the case information.
The complaint was filed by The Professional Group (TPG), which said that LBC failed, despite repeated demands, to remit P68.1 million in pre-need premium collections to the financially troubled firm under a partnership the two companies formed in 1999.
Under the deal, LBC?s overseas branches would act as collection agents for OFW clients, especially US-based Filipinos, who wanted to pay for their pre-need accounts.