Gov’t opposes lifting of Dichaves warrant
Government prosecutors want to keep in force the arrest warrant against businessman Jaime Dichaves, a coaccused in the plunder case against former President Joseph Estrada.
In a comment filed with the Sandiganbayan Special Division, the Office of the Special Prosecutor said it was vehemently opposed to Dichaves’ plea to have his arrest warrant quashed.
It said Dichaves had already been subjected to a proper preliminary investigation, and the antigraft court did not have jurisdiction over him yet.
Earlier, the Sandiganbayan granted Dichaves’ plea and ordered the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a preliminary investigation of his plunder case, saying that he had been unable to participate in an earlier initial probe.
Motion to quash
Dichaves subsequently filed a motion asking the court to have his arrest warrant lifted.
Dichaves skipped the country before Estrada’s ouster in 2001. In December last year, he filed a motion through his lawyers asking the court to dismiss his plunder case or order a reinvestigation. He said he was returning to the Philippines to face the charges against him.
According to the prosecutors, the court order to conduct a preliminary investigation was not final and could be appealed, thus, the motion to quash the arrest warrant was premature.
Furthermore, Dichaves could not seek relief from the Sandiganbayan because the court did not have jurisdiction over his person yet, the government lawyers said. They said jurisdiction could only be acquired through the arrest or voluntary submission of an accused.
The prosecutors said that at a time convenient to him, Dichaves manifested to the court his intention to return. It pointed out that the businessman chose to return only after the trial against Estrada had been concluded.
“More, he intends to come home but only as a free man. Worse, despite the truth that it was his fault that he was allegedly denied the right to a preliminary investigation, he now conveniently invokes this right even if, so to speak, it is too late in the day,” the prosecution said.
Flight means guilt
Dichaves’ awareness of a plunder case filed against him should have made him come home right away, granting that he had a valid defense, the prosecution contended.
But his flight indicates his guilt, it added.
It said that should probable cause be found against Dichaves in the preliminary investigation, it was not implausible that he would flee the country again. It noted that he wished to return only when the arrest warrant had been quashed, so that he could enter and leave the country at will.
It said that it was Dichaves’ fault alone, not the court’s or the prosecution, that the case against him had remained unresolved.
“Ironically, after a long period of time, accused Dichaves intends to come back and face the law, but only as a free man and nothing less,” it said.
No need to reinvestigate
The prosecution said another preliminary investigation of Dichaves’ plunder case was unnecessary because a valid one had been conducted earlier.
It said notices and orders were sent to his last known address, but these were refused.
Thus, it said, it would be meaningless to now send Dichaves the orders and resolutions of the Ombudsman since he could not receive them, he being out of the country.
Dichaves has denied conniving with Estrada in money-making schemes. Estrada had testified that the “Jose Velarde” bank account containing billions of pesos that was allegedly his really belonged to Dichaves.
The Sandiganbayan subsequently found Estrada guilty of plunder, while Dichaves has yet to have his day in court.