By Czarina Nicole Ong
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has denied the motion for leave to file demurrer to evidence of former Talisay Mayor Socrates Fernandez of Cebu in relation to his obstruction case.
Fernandez was charged with violation of Section 1(b) of Presidential Decree 1829, otherwise known as the Decree Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders, for impairing the possible evidence in the investigation of the criminal case against his adopted son, Joavan Fernandez.
On June 4, 2010 in Sitio Zombria, Barangay Lawaan 2, Talisay, Fernandez retrieved a lady’s bag from a sports utility vehicle Isuzu Bighorn with plate number YEZ460, which was then under police custody.
He insisted that he could do anything since he owned the vehicle, and he refused to turn over the bag despite being asked to do so by the police.
A demurrer to evidence is an act contesting that the prosecution’s evidence is not sufficient to render a guilty verdict. If the court approves it, then the case is dropped.
Fernandez said in his motion that the prosecution failed to meet the requirements of proof beyond reasonable doubt to establish his guilt, so he was seeking the dismissal of the case by way of demurrer to evidence.
Assuming that he did take the lady’s bag from the vehicle, Fernandez argued that there was no indication that it was intended to obstruct the investigation of his son, Jovan, or that the contents of the bag was significant in the latter’s prosecution.
Fernandez added that at the time the reported crime was made, there was no search warrant issued against the vehicle or a yellow line placed to suggest the vehicle was placed under police custody.
Unfortunately for him, the Sandiganbayan did not side with him since the prosecution convincingly pointed to its prima facie evidence of Fernandez’s obstruction of justice.
The testimonies of SPO1 Ciriaco Luab Jr. and PO2 Epifanio Comedido Jr. were “telling” for the Sandiganbayan, and could not be disregarded.
“Notably, Luab and Comedido are police officers. At this stage of the proceedings, nothing on record sufficiently suggests ill motive on their part to testify against the accused who was mayor of Talisay City,” the resolution read.
Fernandez’s act of taking the bag despite the warnings of Luab and Comedido was also considered to be “prima facie evidence of obstruction of justice.” Even if there was no search warrant or yellow line, the Sandiganbayan said Fernandez was still informed and warned about the police investigation.
“The warning was unheeded which is prima facie evidence of an intention to meddle or impair any evidence from the vehicle that may be used in the investigation of the case of accused’s son,” the court ruled. “This is heightened by the accused’s refusal to turn over the red bag taken from the vehicle.”
The seven-page resolution was penned by Associate Justice Maryann E. Corpus-Manalac with the concurrence of Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
Fernandez can still file his demurrer, and has been given 10 days from January 10 to do so. However, doing so would mean he would be waiving his right to present his own evidence and the case would be submitted for resolution.