Teachers coop directors charged with 9 counts of estafa

The Sorsogon Public School Teachers and Employees Cooperative, Inc. office building. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO
The Sorsogon Public School Teachers and Employees Cooperative, Inc. office building. BICOLTODAY.COM PHOTO

By Felix ‘Boy’ Espineda, Jr.

SORSOGON CITY, 20May2015 (BicolToday.com) – The order of Judge Rofebar Gerona of RTC Branch 53 remanding the information filed by State Prosecutor Carlota Deniega of Sorsogon relative to her findings of probable cause to file syndicated estafa against the board of directors of the Sorsogon Public School Teachers and Employees Multi-purpose Coooperative, Inc.(SPSTEMC, Inc.) of November 14 last year to submit additional evidence tending to show complexity of the directors with the coop treasurer and general manager in Criminal Case Nos. 9133-9141 was given due course after the prosecuting team submitted  additional information to Judge Max Ables of RTC Branch 52, now handling the case, which cause the issuance of arrest warrant yesterday to Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Fuentes, Segundino Huab and Alfredo Camacho for nine counts of estafa with sixty thousand pesos bail for each count.

The accused motion to reduce bail to five thousand pesos was denied after the opposition of Provincial Prosecutor Regina Gabito, panel chairman, arguing that it would be unfair for Francia Biolena and Mauricio Gabani who earlier posted bail after their indictment by Judge Gerona for estafa thus peg at twelve thousand pesos for each count. Drop from the case was Nydia Bercasio former chairman and general manager of the coop because of her death and Dennis de Guzman, the board secretary.

When the case was filed Guab is a retired public school district supervisor of Juban District; Camacho is an Elementary School head teacher assigned in Biga Elementary School Magallanes District; Fuentes is school district supervisor at Casiguran;  Rodriguez is principal of Gate National High School, Bulan; Gabani is a retired public school principal of Magallanes. Rodriguez is now the chairman and concurrent general manager assigned at Donsol Vocational High School while Camacho is still at Biga Elementary School.

The case became a public interest since the cooperative members and its investors are mostly public school teachers, retirees, and the out of the book management style of its officers. It also a test of mind for the defense and the prosecuting panel for the counsel of the accused labeled the panel as “witch hunters” rebutted by the panel when it said “that the defense counsel and the accused must be taught to be sensitive to the feelings of the complainants who have toiled long years to educate young minds. When they invested their retirement benefits, they merely wanted to save and stretch their money to last for the remaining years of their lives”.

In the exchanges the panel said that the counsel of the accused violates the Canons of Ethics of Lawyers referring to the hurtful and insulting words when the counsel said “complainants greed for money and financial affluence, sweet talked… titillating their natural covetousness”

The four member prosecuting panel of accountant lawyers assigned to review and submit additional evidences was formed by the regional prosecution office.

Case history

The complaint was filed by eight investors from Gubat town. The complainants, all retired government employees, as investors filed a criminal case against Bercasio et al, individually, but the complaint was then consolidated, and now became a class suit originally assigned at the city prosecutors office, but with the motion of inhibition filed by the camp of Bercasio et. al., the complaint was transferred to the provincial prosecutor’s office.

Eliseo Fresnoza, who invested 800 thousand pesos (PhP 800,000.) out of his retirement money as public school teacher said, “the management of the cooperative did not issue a certificate of investment to me, instead it issued two checks that bounced upon maturity”, while the investment of Herminia Beltran of 100 thousand pesos (PhP100,000.) was issued a receipt by Francia Biolena, the coop treasurer, and a certificate of investment that was signed by Mauricio Gabani, the former manager of the cooperative who was sacked due to mismanagement as alleged by Bercasio and the other directors. (Related story: Sorsogon DepEd officials snubs syndicated estafa raps probe at DOJ )

Prior to Ables order, the respondents took every legal route to delay the proceedings filing motion for inhibition for the prosecuting team leader Provincial State Prosecutor Regina Gabito , seeking for extension of time while the complainant filed motion to inhibit Judge Gerona reasoning that Labitag, the respondents counsel, was a former partner in the law office of the judge father.

RTC Branch 52

By January this year, the panel’s compliance of the order of Gerona to submit additional evidence to establish complexity of the board was resolved by  Ables granting the motion for the extension of time of its order of November 14 last year considering the prosecution compliance to submit additional evidence.

The judge also resolved the motion to inhibit the four member panel by denying the respondent. Respondents were sought for inhibition is personal to the prosecutors concerned said the judge, adding that the proper venue of the inhibition should be the regional state prosecutor’s office who created the panel.

Another resolved issue was the motion to remand the case to the prosecution to conduct further reinvestigation was also denied for being pro-forma.

And the motion to quash filed by accuse Francia Biolena was denied because the matter address therein says the court are evidentiary and could be best threshed out during the trial of the cases.

The Court also ruled that it will hear the cases separate in order not to muddle attendant facts. No mother case, directing the parties to file separate pleadings for each and every case on docket.

Saying “this court is convinced that there exist a probable cause to engender a well founded belief that the crime being charge against the accused has been committed and that they are appertaining thereto”

Wherefore the portion of the Order of November 14, 2014 recalling the warrant of arrest issued against movant accuse Alex Rodriguez et al is set aside.

A Warrant of arrest was issued to all the accused who have not been arrested and the arraignment was set on May 21, 2015, 8:30 in the morning.  [BicolToday.com]




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