De Lima: TRO on Asiatique ‘railroaded’ | Inquirer News

De Lima: TRO on Asiatique ‘railroaded’

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Thursday accused a Pasig Regional Trial Court judge of “railroading” the granting of a 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) which stymied the criminal prosecution of Delfin Lee, owner of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp.

“There is really something irregular with what happened,” De Lima said of the TRO issued by Judge Rolando Mislang of Pasig RTC Branch 167, just two days after the justice department recommended the filing of a case for syndicated estafa, a non-bailable offense, against Lee and three others.


She noted that Mislang granted Lee’s petition despite the failure of the businessman’s lawyers to present a copy of the resolution of the Department of Justice (DOJ) which recommended the filing of a case for syndicated estafa against Lee, his son Dexter, Christina Sagun, Christina Salagan and Alex Alvarez.

“How could the judge determine the merits of the TRO (without reading the DOJ resolution)? So it’s really very questionable,” she said.


The justice secretary added that Lee’s lawyers cited only “media reports” in their petition.

“How can the parties involved, both the OSG and Lee’s counsel, intelligently argue their position when they have yet to see a copy of the resolution?” De Lima asked.

Advance info

The justice secretary also hinted that Lee’s lawyers “obviously had advance information” that the DOJ Task Force on Business Scam, headed by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, would issue an adverse resolution against their client.

“That’s why they were able to prepare their amended petition and file it on the same day that we announced that there was already a resolution,” she said.

Aside from filing an urgent petition to lift the TRO, De Lima said she directed Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz to ask for Mislang’s inhibition from the case.

“For me, there was railroading there,” De Lima said at a news briefing.


The case was in connection with the anomalous P6.65 billion in housing loans that the Home Development Mutual Fund, also known as Pag-Ibig Fund, granted to “ghost borrowers” who allegedly bought units in Globe Asiatique’s housing projects in Mabalacat, Pampanga.

Forced to attend

Quoting a report from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), De Lima said Mislang “forced” the OSG lawyer who attended the Aug. 26 hearing of Lee’s other petition for injunction pending in Mislang’s sala.

After the proceeding that morning, the justice secretary said Mislang directed the OSG lawyer to return and appear at the 1 p.m. hearing on Lee’s application for a TRO.

“He (OSG lawyer) said he was forced to do that. He said he had no choice when the judge ordered him to make sure that he would attend. But in the course of the hearing, he objected and insisted that they cannot proceed because it was irregular,” De Lima said.

Since Lee’s application for a TRO was an amended petition, she said the pleading should have been treated as a new petition.

“That should have been a new case and not just a continuation,” De Lima insisted.

She said the DOJ and the OSG would also file an administrative complaint against the judge in the Supreme Court for grave misconduct and abuse of authority.

“I don’t think we can expect impartiality or objectivity on his part because of that attitude, that sense of railroading the case,” De Lima said.

She said it was also unusual that a lower court had issued a restraining order to stop the DOJ from pursuing the prosecution of an accused.

De Castro not cleared

Over the weekend, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said that former Vice President Noli de Castro, head of the Pag-Ibig Fund board at the time the agency approved Globe Asiatique’s loan applications, could be liable for being part of the body that approved the loans.

Vice President Jejomar Binay, also the government’s housing czar, on Thursday said he never cleared his predecessor of possible involvement in the anomalies at Pag-Ibig involving Globe Asiatique.

In a news briefing at the Coconut Palace on Roxas Boulevard, Binay stressed that what he said earlier “was we had no direct evidence” against De Castro.

“But the investigation is not over yet… In fact, there is still a case in the Office of the Ombudsman. We have submitted case-related papers in our possession. If one is not yet indicted, it doesn’t mean that person is already off the hook,” he said.

At the same time, Binay appealed to “those who have knowledge about the illegal transactions” involving Globe Asiatique.

“Please come forward. Help us gather direct evidence… I don’t want to speculate. We need hard evidence,” he said.

No evidence so far

On Tuesday, Binay told reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 2 upon his arrival from the United States that Pag-Ibig had no evidence that would link De Castro to the Globe Asiatique case.

Binay was reacting to queries why De Castro was not among those charged in court for the questionable loans obtained by the controversial firm.

“When it was presented to him (De Castro) by the (Pag-Ibig) board it could have been under the presumption that it had already been reviewed,” Binay said.

Osmeña noted that that amount was more than P6.65 billion. “You could not let that go through board approval… There are several processes, internal rules that you have to follow in any financial organization, in any organization before giving the go-signal for a loan that big,” he said.

Binay also clarified reports that the TRO issued by Pasig RTC Branch 167 had blocked the filing of a criminal case against Lee by the DOJ.

The TRO “did not restrain the DOJ resolution. The case we filed is not covered by the TRO. But it restrained the additional cases filed by the homeowners association (who were among the victims of Globe Asiatique),” he said.

‘Ghost borrowers’

Early this week, the DOJ passed on to the Ombudsman the task of identifying officials and employees of Pag-Ibig allegedly involved in the housing loan given to the firm’s “ghost borrowers.”

The DOJ’s Task Force on Business Scams, chaired by Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, said the group’s findings, based on the preliminary investigation, were forwarded to the Ombudsman.

“So that the appropriate investigation be conducted against the former and present officers of Home Development Mutual Fund,” Villanueva added.

In June 2008, Pag-Ibig Fund entered into an agreement with Globe Asiatique for the piloting of the special membership program through the company’s Xaviera Bacolor project.

In two years, the firm was able to obtain more than P6 billion worth of loans from the agency representing 9,951 accounts which, after confirmation, showed that some purported buyers had no knowledge of having availed themselves of the loans.

Lee has repeatedly denied the allegations against Globe Asiatique.

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