Bzzzzz: Anti-graft court believed police over Soc Fernandez on removal of bag

TALISAY City Councilor Socrates C. Fernandez was the city mayor on June 4, 2010 when the incident involving the removal of a lady's bag from his car, which was under police custody, happened. For that, he was found guilty of obstructing the prosecution of his son Joavan for illegal possession of firearm and explosives.

In the Sandiganbayan ruling promulgated last October 25, Fernandez was sentenced to perpetual disqualification from office. He could lose his seat as councilor and be forever barred from holding government office. He told media Tuesday, November 5, he would ask Sandiganbayan for a reconsideration and if denied, he would go to higher courts.

Question of fact

The motion for "recon" involves principally a question fact: Did then mayor Soc take the red lady's bag, which was in the red SUV Isuzu Bighorn, a car owned by him but driven by his son Joavan when seized by police?

The incident happened at a private car shop in sitio Zombria, Lawaan, Talisay City.

It was a case of a policeman's testimony (then SPO2 Epifanio Comedido), corroborated "on material points" by two other cops, being contradicted the testimony of the mayor.

Whom did the court believe? The police version.

Going against the former mayor was his flip-flop. Soc first admitted in his counter-affidavit that it happened, only that the two versions were different on how he retrieved the bag and what he said.

Then, in his memorandum, he turned 360 degrees around, alleging that it never happened, citing that he was not arrested after he supposedly got the bag and there was no record in the police blotter of the incident.

What did Soc say?

The interesting part of the incident, other than the taking away of the red bag, was what the mayor allegedly said.

Police said Soc told him:

"Unsa'y problema, do? Ako ning sakyanan. Ako'y mayor sa Talisay. Wa'y magbuot nako." (What's the problem, man [or boy]? This is my vehicle. I am the mayor of Talisay. Nobody can order me.)

Soc, on the other hand, alleged that what he said was:

"I own this vehicle and I want to get something from it." And he said it "politely" to the police officer, he told the court.

Apparently, the Sandiganbayan believed the police version. What can the motion for reconsideration say that will change the court's mind?

Question hangs

The incident happened in 2010 and the Sandiganbayan ruling was promulgated in last October 25. It took nine years or so just to determine whether a mayor took a bag from a car under police custody.

Soc's lawyer filed three motions to dismiss: March 16, 2017, for "inordinate delay"; September 11, 2017 on various grounds; and a demurrer to evidence, November 28, 2018. All were denied.

The public didn't have the chance to decide by the ballot whether the offense should bar him from public office. The last election, last May, which elected him councilor, was held before the Sandiganbayan ruling.

Even that still suspends the question of guilt by final judgment. Soc will bring the case to higher courts. Meaning, he is still presumed innocent until the Supreme Court makes the ruling final and executory. Meaning, he can still run in 2022.

P6,000 fine

The fine imposed by the anti-graft court is only P6,000, a minuscule amount these days, particularly to high public officials such as the councilor. How could he ever serve subsidiary imprisonment as alternative to the measly amount?

It's the perpetual disqualification for public office that will hurt. But, thanks to the legal processes, it could take forever before it would finally come.

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