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Former Cebu mayor convicted for hiding evidence in son’s criminal case

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by Allan Yves Briones

The actions of former Talisay mayor Socrates Fernandez in hiding a crucial piece of evidence – a lady’s bag – supposedly in order to protect his son Joavan Fernandez has been deemed by the anti-graft court as obstruction of justice.

“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 Sandiganbayan 5th Division stated in a recent ruling.

In the decision, the court held that obstruction of justice is clear from the circumstances surrounding Fernandez’ handling of lady’s bag in 2010, as presented by the prosecution.

“(Fernandez proceeded with the concealment of the bag), despite the clear proscription from the police, as well as the refusal to turn it over despite the clear instruction therefor,” the court said.

The act is clearly indicated under Section 1 (b) of Presidential Decree No. 1829, also known as an act Penalizing Obstruction of Apprehension and Prosecution of Criminal Offenders:

“[A]ltering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document, or object, with intent to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility as evidence in any investigation of or official proceedings in, criminal cases, or to be used in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases,” the law read.

During the trial, the former city executive assailed the veracity of the incident, arguing on the grounds of alleged inconsistencies in the police witnesses’ statements.

However, the anti-graft court held that the testimonies were sufficient.

Joavan is facing criminal action for grave threats after allegedly threatening an individual with a firearm.

In the decision’s dispositive portion, the former mayor was fined P6,000, and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.

Undersigned in the decision are Associate Justice Maryann Corpus-Manalac, concurred by Division Chairperson Rafael Lagos and Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.