Qualified theft case vs San Miguel Holding's Indonesian partner a go
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals affirmed its July 11, 2018 ruling allowing the Marikina Regional Trial Court to proceed with the trial on the qualified theft case filed by San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC), the infrastructure arm of San Miguel Corporation against its Indonesian partners.
In an eight-page resolution, the appeals court’s Special Former 9th Division dismissed the motion for reconsideration filed by Indonesian businessman Shadik Wahono and his co-respondents Nadiya W. Stamboel, Fema Christina Piramide-Sayson and Alvin B. Bugtas which sought a reversal of the July 2018 ruling.
The appeals court ruling last year granted the bid of SMHC to order the inhibition of Marikina RTC Branch 193 Judge Alice Gutierrez to inhibit from the case and allow the trial to proceed in another RTC Marikina branch.
SMHC sought Gutierrez inhibition for issuing an October 2017 ruling dismissing the qualified theft complaint. SMHC then sought the CA’s help through an injunction which was granted. The order to proceed with the trial came next in July last year. Wahono and the others wanted the July order reversed.
But the CA, in its latest ruling, said “after a careful perusal of the entire records of the case, it finds no compelling reason to disturb its earlier ruling.”
The CA said the arguments raised by the Wahono and the others “have already been exhaustively addressed by this court.”
Wahono and his co-respondents were charged with qualified theft case before the Marikina City RTC for allegedly causing Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corporation’s (CMMTC), which was jointly owned then by the SMHC and Wahono, to make an unauthorized disbursement, which the latter used to incorporate another company called Citra Central Expressway Corp. (CCEC).
The SMHC specifically charged Wahono for alleged unauthorized disbursement of P50 million in funds of CMMTC.
The Marikina court has already acquitted Sayson and Bugtas. Wahono and the others said the continuation of the trial would violate their right against double jeopardy or should not be tried of the same case twice.
The CA, however, pointed out that the order “did not necessarily amount to the extinction of the civil liability.”
It added that even with the acquittal, aside from appealing the civil aspect of the case, the offended party can question the decision through a petition for review before the higher courts stating grave abuse of discretion that would render the judgment null and void.
The CA said the case should be raffled to another judge in accordance with the provisions of the Rules of Court.
“Having failed to live up to the standards of avoiding even the mere appearance of impropriety, the recusal of the respondent judge from the proceedings in the court a quo is essential to the preservation of the people’s faith in the judicial system,” the appellate court explained.
The resolution was written by Associate Justice Sesinando E. Villon and concurred in by Associate Justices Manuel Barrios and Germano Francisco Legaspi.