THE Sandiganbayan has affirmed its guilty verdict against former Talisay City, Cebu mayor Socrates Fernandez for tampering with a police-impounded vehicle involved in a gun-toting investigation in 2010.
In a 10-page resolution penned by Fifth Division Associate Justice Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac, the anti-graft court junked Fernandez’s motion for reconsideration that asked for a reversal of his conviction for which he was fined P6,000 and perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
The court reiterated its findings that Fernandez abused the powers of his office by ignoring admonitions from police officers against removing any object from the impounded car which impeded an ongoing investigation.
Associate Justices Rafael R. Lagos and Maria Theresa V. Mendoza-Arcega concurred.
Based on the October 25, 2019 decision, the Sandiganbayan declared that Fernandez committed obstruction of justice when he retrieved a lady’s bag inside an Isuzu Trooper earlier cordoned off by the police.
According to the testimony of police officers, the vehicle was driven by the mayor’s adopted son, Joavan Fernandez, who was earlier arrested for threatening another driver with a gun during a traffic altercation.
The witnesses said the accused refused to heed their plea not to touch the vehicle as he declared that “This is my car. I am the mayor of Talisay.”
In challenging his conviction, Fernandez claimed the court acted with grave abuse of discretion when it cited his counter-affidavit even if the said document was never introduced into the records as part of evidence by any of the parties.
He also claimed the evidence fell short of the required proof beyond reasonable doubt as there was no evidence of any kind to show that the removal of the bag adversely affected the police investigation in any way.
Fernandez added the prosecution failed to establish any link between his supposed actions and his position as then city mayor of Talisay.
The court was not convinced and noted that the challenges to the sufficiency of evidence to sustain the conviction and the existence of obstruction of justice were already previously raised and disposed of.