IT took nine years but the law finally caught up with former Talisay City, Cebu mayor Socrates Fernandez who was convicted by the Sandiganbayan last October 25 of obstruction of justice.
In a 19-page decision penned by Associate Justice Maryann E. Corpus-Mañalac, the Fifth Division found Fernandez guilty of unlawful meddling in a police investigation when he retrieved a lady’s bag inside his vehicle while the car was in police custody.
Over Fernandez’s denial, the court upheld the testimony of police officers that the former mayor ignored warnings not to touch or remove anything from the vehicle as the Isuzu Trooper Bighorn was already considered evidence related to a crime.
“Denials constitute self-serving negative evidence that cannot be given greater evidentiary weight over the declarations of credible witnesses who testify on affirmative matters,” the court pointed out.
Fernandez was not meted any time behind bars but was ordered to pay a fine of P6,000.
The court also imposed the additional penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office against him.
Trial records showed the Isuzu Trooper SUV was taken into custody after its driver, Joavan Fernandez, adopted son of the accused, was arrested for threatening another driver with a gun during a traffic altercation.
Two policemen who were assigned to guard the vehicle in a car shop testified that the former mayor arrived and opened the car door to retrieve a red lady’s bag from the front seat, ignoring verbal warning that he should not do so.
The witnesses said Fernandez told them: “This is my car. I am the mayor of Talisay.”
While the accused initially admitted removing a lady’s bag from the vehicle, he later issued a different statement saying the incident did not take place. He also attacked the police officers’ testimonies pointing discrepancies in their narrative.
The court, however, gave credence to the prosecution’s evidence, saying the testimony of the policemen who had custody of the vehicle was corroborated by other statements from their superior who assigned them to the location.