Case vs Lee to proceed after judge junks mediation hearing
CITY OF SAN FERNANDO, Philippines—The pretrial for the syndicated estafa case filed against real estate developer Delfin Lee will proceed in this Pampanga capital on May 9, after the judge hearing the lawsuit canceled the mediation proceeding sought by the defendant.
Judge Ma. Amifaith Fider-Reyes of the Pampanga Regional Trial Court ruled in a new order that syndicated estafa was not subject to mediation, retracting an early referral of the lawsuit to the Philippine Mediation Center here.
In the previous order she issued after Lee’s March 14 arraignment, Reyes had told the lawyers for the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig Fund) and Lee to proceed with the mediation before the pretrial since both parties had confirmed that the rules on alternative modes of dispute were applicable.
The Pag-Ibig Fund sued Lee, president of Globe Asiatique Realty Holdings Corp. (GARHC), for taking out nearly P7 billion in housing loans from the national shelter and savings agency through alleged ghost, dead or ineligible borrowers for the Xevera subdivisions in Mabalacat City and Bacolor town, and Sameera subdivision in Angeles City between 2008 and 2010.
Lee was charged together with his son and GARHC vice president Dexter Lee, documentation officer Christina Sagun and accounts officer Cristina Salagan, and Pag-Ibig Fund legal officer Alex Alvarez.
Lee did not enter a plea during his arraignment, prompting the court to enter a “not guilty” plea for him.
Reyes set the May 9 pretrial of Lee, Sagun and Alvarez at 2 p.m.
Salagan and Alvarez are still at large after the judge issued an arrest warrant for them in April 2012.
Lee is detained at the Pampanga provincial jail.
Seeking to stop the pretrial, Lee’s lawyer, Willie Rivera, filed a petition on May 2 in the Supreme Court questioning the propriety of arraigning Lee.
Rivera told the Inquirer on Saturday that Lee should not have been arraigned because there were pending petitions for the review of Court of Appeals (CA) decisions that found no probable cause for a syndicated estafa charge against Lee, Sagun and Alvarez.
Lee’s lawyers also questioned his March 6 arrest in Manila, citing a Nov. 7, 2013, decision of the CA that quashed, recalled and lifted the arrest warrant issued by the judge.
But on March 12, the Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the CA decision.
Rivera said the high court had also consolidated six petitions opposing the lifting of the arrest warrant.
“The arraignment of [Lee] is premature and tainted with grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack and/or excess of jurisdiction because the Supreme Court has yet to resolve the petitions pending before [the high court] on the declaration of [the CA] that no probable cause exists against [Lee, Alvarez and Sagun],” said Lee’s petition.
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