Sandiganbayan won’t junk usurpation rap vs Iligan mayor
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has denied the plea of Iligan City Mayor Celso Regencia to dismiss the charge of usurpation of authority against him.
In an eight-page minute resolution, the court’s Seventh Division upheld his indictment by the Ombudsman for allegedly continuing to perform his duties while detained as a suspect in the ambush attempt on a former lawmaker.
The court said Regencia’s motion to dismiss was already rendered moot by its issuance of an arrest warrant on May 9.
This meant the court had already examined the case information and records and found probable cause to proceed with the case, even before the mayor sought the case’s dismissal for lack of probable cause.
The minute resolution did not touch upon other issues raised by Regencia, which the court said involved matters of defense that should be threshed out in a full-blown trial.
Associate Justices Alexander G. Gesmundo, Maria Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta and Zaldy V. Trespeses approved the minute resolution.
Regencia was detained from October 2015 to January 2017, after he was accused of masterminding the Dec. 11, 2014 ambush on the convoy of then-Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, who at the time was widely thought to challenge the mayor in the May 2016 elections. Belmonte survived but three of his aides died; he did not run in the elections which Regencia won while in jail.
The Ombudsman accused Regencia of usurping the power of acting Mayor Ruderic Marzo, as he allegedly continued to work from jail, issuing directives and memoranda, signing checks and vouchers, and even filling up various positions with his appointees.
In his defense, Regencia argued the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s Nov. 4, 2015 letter was addressed only to Marzo and also did not direct him to desist from performing his duties. This
argument, however, would have to be raised during the trial. SFM