SC junks Delfin Lee petition; syndicated estafa case to proceed

Posted at 10/02/12 2:50 PM

MANILA, Philippines - There is no stopping the syndicated estafa case against property developer Delfin Lee.

The Supreme Court junked Lee's petition for a reversal of a Court of Appeals ruling that gave the green light to the Department of Justice to proceed with its prosecution of Lee and several others for questionable P6-billion in loans given to the buyers of Globe Asiatique by the Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-Ibig). 

In a 2-page resolution by the Third Division dated July 4 released to the media by the DOJ on Tuesday, the high court denied Lee's petition "for failure to show any reversible error in the challenged decision."

The CA's Seventeenth Division gave its nod to the filing of the criminal charge against Lee in April.

The DOJ found probable cause to charge Lee, Dexter Lee, Christina Sagun, Cristina Salagan, and Atty. Alex  for purportedly making use of fictitious and "ghost" buyers in obtaining the Pag-ibig loans for GA's Xevera Housing project in Mabalacat, Pampanga. 

In its 21-page decision, the appellate court ruled that Pasig City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 167 Judge Rolando Mislang committed grave abuse of discretion in preventing the DOJ from filing the case with his issuance of a writ of preliminary injunction in favor of Lee. 

Mislang also issued an order to prevent the DOJ from proceeding with the preliminary investigation of a separate similar case against Lee pending the resolution of a civil case he filed against HDMF before Makati City Branch 58. Mislang ruled that the estafa and civil cases are similar and intimately related, posing a prejudicial question.   

The CA, however, gave weight to the DOJ's position that the criminal action was taken prior to the civil action.

"A prejudicial question is understood in law as that which must precede the criminal action and which requires a decision before a final judgment can be rendered in the criminal action with which said question is closely connected. The civil action must be instituted prior to the institution of the criminal action," the CA ruled.

In its ruling, the high court also pointed out a technicality issue in Lee's petition seeking a reversal of the CA ruling with its failure to comply with the requirements under Sec. 4, Rule 45 of the Rules of Court by failing to file the required number of plain copies of the petition. 

DOJ hails ruling

In a statement, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima welcomed the ruling.

"This is another significant development in the quest for justice -- to have the fugitive Delfin Lee answer for his actions. The Judiciary had consistently confirmed the findings of the DOJ on this particular case given the clear facts and the culpability of the respondent Lee," she said.

"Having run of legal options or remedies, Delfin Lee should now face the music and come our from hiding. He should not further strain the government's resources by his continued evasion of a duly issued warrant of arrest," she added.

The high court's Third Division is composed of Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., chairperson, and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Roberto Abad, and Jose Mendoza, members.