Delfin Lee decries illegal arrest

Posted at 03/07/2014 12:56 PM | Updated as of 03/07/2014 1:11 PM

MANILA – Globe Asiatique president Delfin Lee is set to file a petition for a writ of habeas corpus after he was arrested by the police despite a Court of Appeals ruling clearing him from syndicated estafa charges.

"We'll be filing the neccessary the pleadings insofar as the illegal arrest on Mr. Lee by the PNP (Philippine National Police)," Lee's spokesman Gilbert Repizo said.

"Mayroon kaming nakapasok na urgent motion to release, specifically citing na walang basis, because quashed ang warrant of arrest."

On Thursday evening, Philippine National Police's Task Force Tugis operatives arrested Lee, an accused in the P6.6 billion housing scam, at the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel in Manila.

The police said they had made sure the warrant, which was issued by Branch 42 Regional Trial Court in San Fernando, Pampanga was "live" before conducting the arrest.

Repizo, however, argued that the warrant of arrest is no longer valid because the CA already cleared Lee of syndicated estafa charges and ordered the police to stop his arrest, reversing an earlier ruling by the Pampanga court.

The CA ruled that Lee can't be charged with syndicated estafa because the crime should involve at least five people.

Since Lee's co-accused, Cristina Sagun, an executive of his company, was earlier absolved by the same court, the syndicated estafa charges won't have any legal basis.

'NO LONGER AN ISSUE'

Senior Supt. Jigs Coronel, Manila Police District Deputy Director for Operations, said the validity of the Lee's arrest is no longer an issue because the court already accepted the return of warrant of arrest.

"With the cognizance of the court of the return of the warrant of arrest, the validity is no longer an issue, [already] moot and academic. He shall be detained in a place of confinement to be determined by the court," Coronel told reporters.

Coronel added that the warrant of arrest stands because the CA had supposedly deferred to the Supreme Court, which was asked by government prosecutors to review the appellate court's decision.

Repizo disputed Coronel's argument, saying the CA ruling remains valid until the SC resolves the matter and should prevail over the Pampanga court's ruling.

"Merong quashal coming from the CA. Merong certification from the chief PNP sinasabing recognizing the court decision, delisting Lee from the top 5 fugitives. we are cofused also," Repizo said.

"Ang judge ay mag-iissue ng commitment order, pero china-challenge ito ni Atty. Rony Garay (Lee's lead counsel). But we are just taking copies of the affidavit of service and related documents on habeas corpus proceedings before the CA."

The Pampanga court has yet to resolve the motion for immediate release of Lee because Presiding Judge Amifaith Fider-Reyes was not around.

The prosecution panel, meanwhile, asked the court for five days to comment on the motion.

San Fernando, Pampanga RTC executive judge Edgar Chua, refused to comment on the validity and legality of Lee's arrest, saying the matter is now with the SC.

Nonetheless, he issued a commitment order stating that Lee will have to be detained at the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) office in Pampanga.

"That has to be resolved later on. I cannot comment on the legality. In the meantime, I ordered a commitment, pending a motion to be filed by his (Lee) lawyer. Those issues are still pending with the SC. As of now, as I said, I cannot comment," Chua said.