Only Sandiganbayan can jail Pagadian mayor — counsel PDF Print E-mail
Wednesday, 12 June 2013 14:27

A lawyer in Pagadian City seeks to stop a judge from sending behind bars Mayor Samuel Co for alleged involvement into the Aman Futures investment scam “on a personal capacity.”

Lawyer Ferdinand Pablo, legal counsel for Co, now outgoing Pagadian mayor, said only the Sandiganbayan can send public officials to jail for charges of graft.

Judge Alberto Quinto in Pagadian City has issued a warrant for the arrest of 12 accused for estafa, including Co, in connection with the scam widely generated by the Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc. No bail is recommended for their temporary liberty.

Before the Regional Trial Court of Zamboanga del Sur, a special panel of prosecutors headed by Edna Valenzuela, has accused Co of estafa, along with Aman incorporators and officers Manuel Amalilio, Fernando Luna, Lelian Lim Gan, Eduardo Lim, Wilanie Fuentes, Naezelle Rodriguez, Lurix Lopex, Jason de los Reyes, Jerome Sanchez, Oliver Dequito, and Abigail Pendulas “under Article 315, par. 2(a) of the Revised Penal Code in relation to Presidential Decree 1689.”

They cited that Co had entered into a memorandum of agreement with Aman for imposition of individual investor’s tax by the city government.

But saying Co should be tried by the Sandiganbayan as a public official for any graft-related case, Pablo said charging his client along with the other accused, would not help win true justice for the victims of the pyramid investment scam.

Pablo said under Section 4 of Republic Act (RA) 8249 “only the Sandiganbayan (has) original jurisdiction (over) cases involving: Violations of RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, RA 1379, and the Revised Penal Code, where one or more of the principal accused are officials occupying positions in the government,including city mayors, vice-mayors, members of the sangguniang panlungsod, city treasurers, assessors, engineers, and other city department heads.”

An affidavit issued by Julius Labunog said Co had “entered into a memorandum of agreement” with the beleaguered capital group for the city’s imposition of four percent in tax upon amounts of individual investment.

Insisting, that he was also victim as an investor himself, Co said that the city government had officially collected only P39,790 from Aman for a business tax covered by official receipts.

The special panel of prosecutors created by the Department of Justice also noted that Aman officer and respondent Lelian Gan had told the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) under oath that she had “issued a certification declaring respondent Co as an ‘authorized agent’ of Aman Futures for (its) online trading.”

Co had petitioned the Court of Appeals, saying the prosecutors “failed to establish a probable cause” by depending much on the statements of Labunog and Gan. His lawyers said there was no indication that the mayor had accepted the spurious appointment, “even if it existed,” adding that the panel was unable to produce Gan’s certificate.

Co said of the more than 8,000 cases filed against the owners and officers of Aman Futures Group Philippines Inc., government prosecutors had ostensibly built their case primarily on the basis of Labunog and Gan’s statements.