By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division has decided to reopen the proceedings of the usurpation case of former Dumanjug Mayor Nelson Gamaliel Garcia of Cebu after his lawyer made a mistake in submitting photocopied materials as evidence.
Garcia filed a Motion to Re-open Proceedings and to Set Case for Further Hearing with Motion to Defer and Extend the Date for Submission of Accused’s Formal Offer of Evidence.
In it, Garcia said that the documentary exhibits marked during the pre-trial conference are mere photocopies and that his counsel failed to present the records officer of the Municipality of Dumanjug and the Civil Service Commission during the course of the trial.
The prosecution said the defense counsel failed to observe due diligence, since most of the documents, on the list which are requested to be identified and authenticated, are common exhibits with the other accused and are already formally offered.
But fortunately for Garcia, the anti-graft court decided to grant him this procedural remedy to avoid a miscarriage of justice, especially since he filed his motion in a timely manner.
“For the Court, it will be an injustice on the part of the accused if he will be deprived of the chance to present witnesses to authenticate the documents provisionally marked during the pre-trial conference,” the resolution stated.
“No less than his liberty is at stake in this case. Higher interest of justice and equity demand that the accused-movant be not penalized based on the negligence or mistake of his counsel,” it added.
The three-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega with the concurrence of Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Maryann Corpus Mañalac.
Garcia has been charged for a violation of Article 177 of the Revised Penal Code alongside then Information Officer Emmylou Cabonilas and Sangguniang Bayan members Ricardo Boquecosa, Ricardo Condes, Eliezer Amadora, Meriam Llano, and Antonio Garcia
On December 26, 2013, Cabonilas reportedly performed acts “pertaining to the position of Secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan of Dumanjug,” such as signing a Sanggunian Bayan Resolution.
Cabonilas had no authority to do so, and yet all of the other accused chose to consent her act as Sangguniang Bayan Secretary.