CA upholds indictment of Marinduque ex-solon

The Court of Appeals has sustained the indictment of former Marinduque Rep. Regina Ongsiako Reyes for usurpation of official functions following her disqualification in the 2013 elections due to citizenship issue.

In a 12-page decision dated April 11, the CA’s Special 5th Division through Associate Justice Samuel Gaerlan dismissed the petition of Reyes seeking reversal of the Department of Justice resolution in 2017 that approved the filing of case for violation of Art. 177 of the Revised Penal Code against her.

The appellate court held that the DOJ was correct in finding probable cause in the complaint filed by Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco, her rival in the elections who was proclaimed winner in the elections both by the Commission on Elections and the Supreme Court.

It denied the assertion of Reyes that she could not be held liable for performing her duties in good faith, arguing that only the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal could order her to vacate her post being a member of the House.

But the CA ruled that such claim of good faith was “directly in contradiction with the findings of the Supreme Court” in its 2013 and 2016 decisions.

In the said ruling, the SC ordered the House to administer the oath of office of Velasco because of the nullity of Reyes’s candidacy and the absolute lack of legal basis to let her keep the seat.

Inspite of her knowledge of the Comelec and the SC’s rulings, Reyes joined and took her oath before the Speaker of the House when Congress convened. Thus, the CA agreed there was probable cause to charge Reyes with the usurpation of official functions.

“Despite the Resolution of the Supreme Court dismissing her petition and finding no grave abuse on the part of the COMELEC En Banc, Reyes continuously occupied the Office of the Marinduque Representative received the salaries, allowances, and other benefits intended for such position, as well as, the funds intended for the maintenance and operational expenses of the Office of the Marinduque Representative,” the ruling stated.

“From the foregoing findings, the essential element of false pretense is apparent,” the CA ruled.

Associate Justices Zenaida Galapate- Laguilles and Pablito Perez concurred in the ruling.

The ruling will pave way for the trial of Reyes before the Quezon City Metropolitan Trial Court will proceed.

Velasco filed the charges against Reyes “for continuously representing herself to be the Marinduque representative and performing functions relative to the position and for allegedly receiving salaries and other benefits including funds intended for the maintenance and operational expenses of the Office of the Representative for Marinduque.”

Velasco has assumed his post and served only in the last five months of his three-year term in February 2016. He then went on to defeat Reyes in the May 2016 elections.

This story was first published by Manila Standard Today

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