An anomaly at the Pasig Prosecution Office
Last week, this column exposed an anomaly brewing inside the Office of the City Prosecutor of Pasig City.
To repeat, a wealthy couple from Barangay Pinagbuhatan bought a condominium unit in Pasig City from a sweet-talking woman who, the couple alleged, was introduced to them by the policeman at a social occasion in the past. It appears that the woman offered the condominium unit at a very low price. Soon thereafter, the couple made a downpayment through a branch office of the Banco de Oro managed by a female friend of the woman.
Apparently, the couple made the downpayment without first ascertaining whether or not the title to the condomimium unit was in order. When the couple later learned that the condominium unit was mortgaged to a bank, they realized that their bargain basemen sale was a swindle.
Soon thereafter, the couple wrote a demand letter to the woman and to the bank official, threatening to sue both of them for estafa if their downpayment is not returned. Meanwhile, the woman absconded.
The couple eventually filed a complaint for estafa against the woman, the bank official, and the policeman. The inclusion of the policeman in the complaint is the big mystery. Moreover, the policeman categorically denies any involvement in the sale.
Attached to the complaint are several annexes consisting of title deeds and letters sent and received by the couple in relation to the sale of the condominium unit. Nothing in the said annexes even mentions the name of the policeman. His signature is nowhere to be found in the said annexes.
The complaint itself contains conflicting dates as to when the husband-complainant was in the Philippines to pay for the condominium unit, and when he was abroad. Corrections were made belatedly by the husband.
More telling is the fact that although the couple sent a demand letter to both the woman who offered the condominium unit to them, and the bank official who facilitated the payment, the couple never sent a demand letter to the policeman. This clearly indicates that the inclusion of the policeman in the complaint was a mere afterthought on the part of the couple, considering that the woman had already absconded.
To justify the inclusion of the policeman in their complaint, the couple alleged that they met the woman through the policeman, and that they would not have transacted with the woman if the policeman never introduced her to them. This line of reasoning is juvenile—like that of a spoiled kid who needs to find somebody to blame for his own improvidence.
The couple also claims that the policeman promised to arrest the woman if the sale turns out to be a hoax. This is difficult to believe because a policeman has no power to arrest anybody for a fraudulent transaction. Unlike violent crimes, estafa cases are difficult to prove, and it is only when a court issues a warrant of arrest in a swindling case can a policeman make the corresponding arrest. Besides, the husband-complainant seems like an astute businessman. It is too incredible to believe that he fell for such a story.
Compounding the problem is the resolution issued by the investigating prosecutor, which states that there is no evidence to show that the policeman conspired with either the woman or the bank official to commit estafa. This finding notwithstanding, the investigating prosecutor held that both the woman and the policeman should be charged with estafa!
That is not the end of the anomaly.
A copy of the resolution of the investigating prosecutor was sent to the policeman, not at his registered address in Barangay Malinao, but to a police station at another barangay—Barangay Caniogan—last Sept. 11. The policeman was unaware of the resolution until Sept. 23, when a process server at the Caniogan police station finally served it. Fortunately for the policeman, he has documentary evidence that the resolution was served on him only on Sept. 23, 2015.
Under the law, the policeman has 15 days from notice of the resolution to file a motion for reconsideration. The policeman filed that motion on Monday, Sept. 28, well-within the 15-day period, whether the period is computed from Sept. 11 (when the resolution was sent to the wrong address) or Sept. 23 (the date the policeman actually received the resolution). For the record, Sept. 26, 2015 is a Saturday, and under the law, when a deadline falls on a Saturday, Sunday, or a holiday, the deadline is moved to the next working day—in this case, Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, if the 15-day period is reckoned from Sept. 11.
Since the motion for reconsideration was filed on time, the resolution of the investigating prosecutor was never enforceable.
To the shock of the policeman, it turned out that the investigating prosecutor enforced his resolution prematurely and filed a criminal case for estafa against the policeman before the Regional Trial Court in Pasig. This led to the issuance of a warrant of arrest against the policeman. The warrant is dated Sept. 23, 2015.
From the foregoing narration of facts, it is evident that the investigating prosecutor filed the criminal case against the policeman prematurely. The facts also suggest that the policeman was kept unaware of the existence of the resolution long enough to give the investigating prosecutor an excuse to file the criminal case against the policeman.
The policeman is now exploring his legal options.
Meanwhile, explanations must be made. Since the investigating prosecutor made a categorical finding that the policeman did not conspire with anybody to commit estafa, why did the investigating prosecutor file a criminal case for estafa against the policeman? Why was the resolution of the investigating prosecutor sent to the wrong address? Why did the investigating prosecutor file the criminal case prematurely?
If the investigating prosecutor does not come up with a satisfactory explanation, then maybe Justice Secretary Leila de Lima must do the explaining for him.