De Lima questions Pasig judge TRO blocking case vs Asiatique
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday questioned the temporary restraining order (TRO) a Pasig City Regional Trial Court issued to block the filing of a criminal case against Delfin Lee, owner of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp.
Just two days after the Department of Justice (DOJ) ordered on Aug. 24 the filing of a syndicated estafa case against Lee, his son Dexter and three associates, Lee obtained a 20-day TRO from Judge Rolando Mislang of Pasig RTC Branch 167. Syndicated estafa is a nonbailable offense punishable by life imprisonment.
“We will have to question that … I will check what’s the basis (of the court),” De Lima told reporters.
“Ordinarily, it’s a legal principle that (a court) cannot restrain a criminal prosecution as a general rule. But of course, there are exceptions,” she said.
The case stems from the allegedly anomalous loans totaling more than P6.65 billion granted by the Home Development Mutual Fund, also known as the Pag-Ibig Fund, to “ghost borrowers” who had allegedly bought properties from Lee’s Globe Asiatique projects in Pampanga province.
Mislang’s decision came after Lee petitioned the court to stop the DOJ from filing a second complaint against the owners of the Globe Asiatique. The first TRO issued by the same court on Aug. 16 stopped the filing of the first estafa complaint.
De Lima said she was “surprised” that a Pasig RTC had granted Lee’s petition for TRO.
“In fact, I only learned about it from the media,” she said.
She said even Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz and Prosecutor General Claro Arellano were not informed that Lee had questioned the resolution approved by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva.
“We did not receive any notice or copy of the petition,” De Lima said. “If there was no notice of a hearing, that’s questionable.”
In his ruling, Mislang noted that Lee, his son Dexter, Christina Sagun, Christina Salagan and Alex Alvarez had learned about the DOJ resolution recommending the filing of the criminal case against them only through “various reports.”
“As had been previously ruled in the order of Aug. 16, the court reiterates that extreme urgency exists in the case and would cause serious and irreparable injury and damage to petitioner if petitioner faces arrest and cannot post bail,” Mislang said in his ruling.
He said he issued the TRO to “maintain a status quo” until the matter on the “prejudicial question” could be resolved.
In his petition, Lee pointed out that there was a prejudicial question, which he said fell under the exception to the general rule that criminal prosecution could not be stopped by a court through an injunction.
In Section 5 of Rule 111 of the 1985 Rules on Criminal Procedure, the two essential elements of a prejudicial question are: “the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.” With a report from Niña Calleja
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