Palace stops ‘midnight’ DOJ reso vs Romero
Malacañang has stopped the Department of Justice (DOJ) from implementing a resolution that found probable cause against businessman and party-list Representative-elect Michael Romero for qualified theft, his lawyers said on Thursday.
The controversial June 13 order issued by acting Justice Secretary Emmanuel Caparas was assailed as a ‘‘midnight resolution” and is not final and executory, the lawyers said in a press statement.
On Wednesday, Malacañang stopped the DOJ from implementing its resolution, citing ‘‘the pendency of an appeal” that Romero, who was recently elected party-list representative for One-Pacman, has lodged in the Office of the President (OP).
Lawyer Mildred Yovela Umali-Hermogenes, deputy executive secretary for legal affairs, signed the OP’s order to Caparas, who issued the controversial DOJ reversal order. The OP also directed the DOJ to submit all case documents that serve its basis for its recent ruling and all other documents from lower courts
The DOJ resolution, which came two weeks before the end of the term of Caparas as acting justice secretary, reversed the prosecutors’ findings exonerating Romero and his associates of the qualified theft charges filed by his father, Reghis Romero II.
The case is part of a long-drawn legal battle between father and son for ownership of Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI).
Hans Santos, counsel for Michael, questioned the manner Caparas and the DOJ reached a decision against his client.
“About three weeks ago, Caparas invited lawyers of both parties in separate meetings, which is highly irregular. If DOJ was to rule on a case, contending parties should be called together so they can answer their respective allegations.”
“Was he trying to send a message separately? This practice of separate meeting is procedurally anomalous,” Santos said.
The DOJ, under then Secretary and now Senator-elect Leila de Lima, had upheld the findings of the Quezon City prosecutors office last year dismissing the case.
“Why then is Caparas rushing to the rescue of Reghis Romero?” Santos said.
In the eight-page resolution dated June 13 and signed by Caparas, the DOJ said there was probable cause to charge Romero, Edwin Jeremillo and Edwin Joseph Galvez—HCPTI’s former president, chief operating officer and chief finance officer, respectively—for conspiring to steal funds totaling P17.9 million from the company and placing the amount in their personal bank accounts.
“We find that there is enough evidence to show that, more likely than not, the crime of qualified theft has been committed, the respondents committed the crime charged and they should be held for trial,” Caparas said.
The DOJ chief reversed the ruling issued June last year by former Justice Undersecretary Leah Armamento which, in turn, upheld the decision of the Quezon City prosecutor’s office that exonerated Romero, Jeremillo and Galvez.
HCPTI, through its corporate secretary, lawyer Jerome Canlas, filed the petition for review and the motion for reconsideration that Armamento and Caparas had resolved.
The younger Romero was accused of issuing and cashing eight company checks on separate occasions between February 2007 to December 2008. As HCPTI president, he allegedly issued and encashed three of the checks saying it was for payment for advances he made for the company.
Five of the checks were issued and cashed by Galvez and Jeremillo, allegedly on Romero’s instruction and approval.
In his resolution, Caparas noted that the respondents did not present any evidence that the checks were in payment of legitimate corporate expenses.
Last Monday, Romero elevated Caparas’ resolution to the Office of the President by filing a notice of appeal. On Wednesday, Malacañang stopped the execution of Caparas’ resolution and Romero’s indictment pending the appeal.
“The execution of the resolution subject to this appeal is hereby stayed during the pendency of the appeal, unless otherwise directed by this office,” stated the two-page order signed by Umali-Hermogenes.
The younger Romero will have 30 days to submit his appeal memorandum while the DOJ must forward the records of the case to Malacañang within 10 days. HCPTI will have 15 days to file a comment after receiving a copy of the appeal memorandum. With a report from Jerome Aning
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