DOJ orders re-filing of theft raps vs Romero, 2 HCPTI officials

MANILA-- The Department of Justice ordered the re-filing of a PHP3.4-million qualified theft case against fugitive 1-Pacman partylist Rep. Michael Romero and two other former officials of Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. (HCPTI).

In a 19-page resolution dated June 2, 2017 but was released to media on Wednesday, the DOJ granted the petition for review filed by HCPTI corporate secretary Atty. Jerome Canlas and reversed the review resolution of the Manila city prosecutor's office in September last year, which dismissed the complaint upon appeal of Romero's camp.

"In the case before us, even though there is no showing of prior agreement among the accused, their separate acts taken and viewed together are actually connected and complement each other, indicating a unity in criminal design and purpose," read the latest resolution signed by Justice Undersecretary Deo Marco.

The DOJ also recognized Canlas as valid a complainant being the corporate secretary of the port operator owned and controlled by Romero's father, construction magnate Reghis Romero II.

The DOJ ordered the Manila City Prosecutor's Office to refile the case before the Manila RTC upon receipt of notice and also submit a report of compliance after 10 days.

In the original resolution, investigating prosecutor found that Romero, Jeremillo and Aquino conspired to issue 18 company checks in one day each bearing the amount of PHP200,000 each supposedly for marketing expenses and made the checks payable to National Food Authority/ or Felicia Aquino.

It was found during preliminary investigation that Romero and Jeremillo signed and issued the checks payable to Aquino and that all checks were not encashed by the NHA but by Aquino herself who then claimed she delivered the amount to one Ramon Olvina.

But in the review resolution, Senior Deputy State Prosecutor and Acting Manila City Prosecutor Peter Ong dismissed the charges due to prejudicial question on the validity of Canlas' representation of HCPTI considering the pending ownership dispute on the firm.

The case was already being heard by Manila regional trial court branch 28 even after the dismissal of the charges last Sept.

RTC Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. already issued arrest warrants against Romero, Jeremillo and Aquino last January as he denied their motion to dismiss the case following the earlier resolution of the Manila prosecutor's office.

The judge did not give weight to the resolution clearing the accused, saying there was already judicial determination of probable cause.

This prompted Romero to seek relief from the Court of Appeals.

The trial, however, has not started as none of the accused have been arrested.

Source: Philippines News Agency