THE Court of Appeals (CA) has junked the plea of Indonesian businessman Shadik Wahono and his corespondents to reverse its decision giving the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Marikina City the go signal to put them on trial for qualified theft.
The case was filed by San Miguel Holdings Corp. (SMHC), the infrastructure arm of San Miguel Corp.
In an eight-page resolution penned by Associate Justice Sesinando Villon, the CA’s Special Former Ninth Division held that Wahono, Nadiya W. Stamboel, Fema Christina Piramide-Sayson and Alvin Bugtas failed to raise new arguments that would warrant the setting aside of its July 11, 2018, ruling.
Wahono and his corespondents were charged with qualified theft case before the Marikina City RTC for allegedly causing Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. (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.
The SMHC specifically charged Wahono for alleged unauthorized disbursement of P50 million of CMMTC funds.
“This Court, after a careful perusal of the entire records of the case, finds no compelling reason to disturb its earlier ruling,” the CA said.
The appellate court said the arguments of Wahono’s camp with regard to SMHC and CMMTC’s supposed “lack of legal personality” to institute the petition and the alleged mootness of it have already been addressed in its earlier resolutions.
“It is not disputed that SMHC is a stockholder of petitioner CMMTC. It has been alleged that private respondents, in their capacity as members of the Board of Directors of CMMTC, committed wrongful acts to the detriment of the corporation. Accordingly, SMHC has the right to institute a derivative suit on behalf of CMMTC,” the CA reiterated.
The CA further explained that the dismissal of the complaint by RTC of Marikina City Branch 193 Presiding Judge Alice Gutierrez against Wahono and Stamboel, who are still at large, and the acquittal of Sayson and Bugtas, did not necessarily amount to the extinction of their civil liability and did not necessarily deprive the petitioners of their right to prosecute the same.
The appellate court branded as “misplaced” the claim of Wahono’s camp that its directive to proceed to the trial on the merits of the case violates their constitutional right against double jeopardy under Article III, Section 2, of the Constitution.
It maintained its July 11 ruling that Judge Gutierrez showed bias and partiality in dismissing the complaint last year, thus warranting her removal from the case.
In the same ruling, the CA ordered the case to proceed to trial by another judge in Marikina RTC to be chosen by raffle 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 the judicial system,” the appellate court explained.
The CA’s ruling stemmed from the petition filed by SMHC and CMMTC seeking the reversal of Judge Gutierrez’s decision denying their motion for inhibition.
However, during the pendency of the petition, Judge Gutierrez issued an order on October 25, 2017, dismissing the qualified theft complaint. This prompted the CA to issue a writ of preliminary injunction early this year, enjoining Gutierrez from implementing its order dismissing the qualified theft case.
It pointed out that Judge Gutierrez’s order has yet to attained finality, thus, am injunction may still be issued.
Concurring with the ruling were Associate Justices Manuel Barrios and Germano Francisco Legaspi.