By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has convicted former Talisay Mayor Socrates Fernandez of Cebu of his obstruction case and sentenced him to pay a fine of P6,000.
At the same time, Fernandez is perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
Fernandez was found guilty for violating 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, which was then under police custody. He insisted that he could do anything since the vehicle was owned by him, and he refused to turn over the bag despite being asked to do so by the police.
In its decision, the anti-graft court found that the evidence adduced by the prosecution established that the obstruction incident indeed occurred that day.
Fernandez tried to justify his actions by saying that he retrieved the bag upon the request of its owner, a certain Katherine Jane Mahinay. He added that the police did not even prevent him from approaching the vehicle, and no one told him it was under police custody.
Later, he denied that the incident had taken place and reasoned that he was not arrested, nor was there any police blotter recording the incident. Fernandez also harped on the alleged inconsistencies of the statements of police witnesses SPO1 Ciriaco Luab Jr. and PO2 Epifanio Comedido Jr.
However, the anti-graft court found that the witnesses’ testimonies are sufficient to prove Fernandez’s involvement in the incident. In fact, the court said they “substantially corroborated each other’s testimonies in material points.”
“In this case, the accused knowingly and willfully committed acts that clearly obstructed or impeded the ongoing police investigation against Joavan. By taking away the lady’s bag from the Isuzu Trooper and refusing to turn it over, the accused’s intention, under the circumstances, was obviously to make the lady’s bag unavailable during the investigation,” the decision stated.
The 19-page decision was penned by Associate Justice Maryann E. Corpus-Manalac with the concurrence of Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.