Court absolves Delfin Lee, lifts arrest warrant vs Globe Asiatique president

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(UPDATED - 6:15 p.m.)MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals has absolved Delfin Lee and ordered authorities to stop the arrest of the Globe Asiatique president, who was earlier accused of committing syndicated estafa along with the firm’s other officers over P7 billion in alleged anomalous housing loans granted to “ghost” borrowers.

In dismissing the case, the CA’s Special 15th division said that “for estafa to have been committed by a syndicate, the act must be committed by five or more persons.”

“A considered scrutiny of the assailed resolution by public respondent which found probable cause to issue a warrant of arrest against petitioner Lee and his co-accused shows that there was no mention that the acts constituting estafa were done by five or more persons,” it said.

The ruling annulled the earlier decision of Amifaith Fider-Reyes, presiding judge of the San Fernando, Pampanga Regional Trial Court-Branch 42.

Reyes ordered the arrest of Lee and his co-accused after finding sufficient evidence to try them for syndicated estafa, a non-bailable offense.

Reyes’ decision was issued “with grave abuse of discretion," the CA’s 15th division said in its 29-page resolution on November 7, 2013, which was penned by Associate Justice Franchito Diamante. CA Associate Justices Agnes Reyes-Carpio and Melchor Sadang concurred with the decision.

The CA said Reyes only said estafa “could only have been accomplished by and through the sustained supervision and action in concert of a group of persons for the attainment of the same criminal objective.”

“Consequently, the warrant of arrest issued against petitioner (Lee) is hereby quashed, recalled and lifted,” the appellate court said.

Vice President Jejomar Binay instructed the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF or Pag-IBIG Fund) to ask the CA to reconsider its decision that not only dismissed the estafa case but lifted the arrest warrant issued by a Pampanga court against Delfin Lee and other officials of Globe Asiatique, a real-estate developer. 

"This is a most unfortunate decision. But we are confident that we have a strong case against Mr. Lee," Binay said. "We will pursue our fight for justice for the ordinary Filipino workers. We will exhaust all legal remedies to ensure that the homeowners who were defrauded by Globe Asiatique and victimized by Mr. Lee will be given justice." 

Binay earlier ordered the filing of syndicated estafa charges against Lee and several others after an investigation revealed that Lee had used fake documents and ghost borrowers to draw some P7 billion in loans from the housing agency. 

Binay said he is hopeful that the Supreme Court will issue a temporary restraining order once the case is brought on appeal. 

The CA previously dismissed the case filed against Cristina Sagun, former head of GA’s documentation department and Lee’s co-accused in the syndicated estafa case filed by the DOJ, finding no probable cause. 

Meanwhile, Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima on Monday said the arrest warrant on Lee still stands as the CA’s “resolution has not attained finality yet.”

The DOJ chief said her office would appeal the CA’s decision.