Delfin Lee refuses to enter plea
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Housing developer Delfin Lee on Friday refused to enter a plea during his arraignment on charges of defrauding the state shelter agency of P7 billion in housing loans, indicating that he would challenge the proceedings.
In accordance with court rules, the court entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Lee, president of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp., whose attempts to stop his arrest and prosecution the Supreme Court thwarted on Wednesday by stopping the implementation of a Court of Appeals ruling quashing the warrant issued for his arrest by the Regional Trial Court Branch 42 here two years ago.
Willie Rivera, Lee’s lawyer, said his client did not enter a plea because he did not want to waive his right to question the proceedings later.
“We cannot waive the right of the accused to insist that there is no probable cause, especially when two cases have been dismissed,” Rivera said after the 3 p.m. hearing for Lee’s arraignment.
Rivera was referring to the dismissal by the Court of Appeals of the syndicated estafa charges against Lee’s coaccused, Globe Asiatique documentation officer Christina Sagun and Pag-Ibig Fund lawyer Alex Alvarez, which, according to him, had reduced the charge to simple estafa, a bailable offense.
Syndicated estafa, or massive fraud, requires at least five respondents. It is an unbailable offense and is punishable by life imprisonment.
Defrauding Pag-Ibig Fund
Lee is accused of defrauding the state-run Home Development Mutual Fund, or Pag-Ibig Fund, of P7 billion in housing loans through fictitious loan applicants and double sale of homes in his Xevera subdivision projects in Bacolor City and Mabalacat town in Pampanga province.
Rivera said that before the arraignment, he asked Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes to consider several of Lee’s motions, including a motion for the judge to inhibit herself.
But Reyes refused and ordered the proceedings to continue.
Reporters were barred from covering the proceedings. The heavily guarded Lee did not give a statement to the press.
Lee arrived for the hearing wearing a bulletproof vest and under heavy guard.
A group of Globe Asiatique employees was there and cheered him on.
Rivera said Lee had considered placing the case under mediation. Assistant State Prosecutor Hazel Valdez said all estafa cases could be dealt with through that process.
Rivera said he was surprised that Lee was taken to court from his cell in the Pampanga provincial jail, but he did not explain why.
Lee was transferred to the provincial jail on Monday after being held at the detention cell of the National Bureau of Investigation’s Central Luzon regional office.
He was arrested by a special police task force at the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Casino in Ermita, Manila, on March 6, after two years on the lam.
His setback in the Supreme Court this week means he is likely to be held in the provincial jail throughout his trial.
Rivera said Lee had complained that it was hot in his cell and that his bed had no mattress.
“We advised him to exercise,” Rivera said.
He said Lee welcomed a congressional investigation.
“He [would be] glad to tell [the lawmakers] the changes needed in the housing industry,” Rivera said.
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