By Czarina Nicole Ong
Former Bureau of Immigration (BI) Deputy Commissioner Michael Robles is seeking to inhibit Sandiganbayan Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez in his criminal charges because of his “endangered lack of faith and trust” in her.
His co-accused, Al Argosino, also manifested that he will file the same motion to inhibit.
Argosino and Robles are facing a violation of R.A. 7080 or the act defining and penalizing plunder, due to the reported extortion of P50 million from 1,316 arrested Chinese nationals who were violating Philippine immigration laws back in 2016.
They were also slapped with violations of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Article 210 of the Revised Penal Code or Bribery, and P.D. 46, which prohibits the giving gifts to public employees.
In his motion, Robles said that he was not shown a warrant when he was arrested for plunder. That alone, according to him, showed how “illegal” his “deprivation of liberty” was.
Further resolutions of the court denying his bid for bail and dismissal of charges “further exacerbated” his trust on Fernandez’s impartiality.
Making things worse, according to Robles, is the fact that Fernandez used to be the classmate of Atty. Laurence Hector B. Arroyo, the counsel of their co-accused, Asian Gaming Service Providers Association, Inc. (AGSPA) President Wenceslao Sombero Jr.
“Should the accused be acquitted, the Hon. Justice Fernandez may be subject to suspicion of bias and partiality towards the accused. On the other hand, should the accused be convicted the Hon. Justice Fernandez may still be subject to suspicion that the accused were convicted just so she can dispel any suspicion of bias and partiality. So either way, she may be subject to suspicion,” the motion read.
In light of this motion, the scheduled trial has been moved to January 28 in order to give time for the prosecution to file its comment.
No risk of double jeopardy
Meanwhile, the Sandiganbayan also ruled that there is no risk of double jeopardy in the criminal charges filed against Argosino and Robles.
The two filed motions before the anti-graft court and tried to have their graft and bribery charges dismissed, reasoning that these offenses indicated there are already constitutive of their plunder charge.
If they will be tried for these crimes, as well as plunder, Argosino and Robles said they will be at risk of double jeopardy. Double jeopardy is the prosecution of a person twice for the same offense.
Unfortunately for them, the Sandiganbayan was not persuaded. A careful examination of all the charge sheets shows that the issues indicated are not the same as that of plunder.
The proper course of action for this, according to the Sandiganbayan, is to hold a joint trial and render a joint decision. “Verily, [plunder] and the present cases had already been consolidated, will be jointly tried, and will be disposed of in a single decision,” it ruled.
“In fact, accused Argosino even cites the consolidation of the cases as the very reason why the accused cannot raise the defense of double jeopardy. Hence, the alleged error of filing multiple Information for the same offense has been addressed,” it added.
The 11-page resolution dated January 7 was penned by Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Zaldy Trespeses.