Lawyer in hot water for ‘killing’ client

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    DEFENSE lawyers have been known going to great lengths to keep clients out of jail but this one is going to take some beating.

    The Sandiganbayan Third Division is demanding an explanation from Atty. Jose V. Aspiras, under pain of sanctions, why he claimed in open court that his client has passed away during the promulgation of his graft and malversation cases on November 27, 2020.

    The client, former Sulu governor Yusop Hussin Jikiri, has turned out to be very much alive and has even asked the court to reverse his conviction for which he was meted six to 10 years for graft and 10 to 16 years for malversation of public funds.

    Also convicted for the same two offenses was former Department of Agriculture Region 11 executive director Oscar O. Parawan.

    Both were also fined P3.25 million and ordered to indemnify the provincial government of Sulu in the same amount.

    The Sandiganbayan pronounced them criminally liable for the anomalous procurement of agricultural supplies worth P3.25 million in 2004.

    Based on evidence presented during trial, the court said the defendants acted with “a common purpose or design” in approving and facilitating the purchase of P3.25 million worth of soil conditioner and fertilizer from private supplier Rim Allied Merchandise (RAM) without public bidding or a project proposal and financial plan.

    Prosecutors also established that the purchase order was issued on April 4, 2004 – 22 days ahead of the execution of a memorandum of agreement between the Department of Agriculture and the provincial government.

    The court noted that RAM, despite winning the contract, had no license to sell and distribute fertilizers and was not the brand owner of the soil conditioner and bio-organic fertilizer that was eventually purchased.

    During promulgation, Jikiri failed to show up although the court noted the presence of his counsel, who informed the Sandiganbayan that his client had died earlier.

    Following procedures, the court still entered a conviction in the criminal docket subject to the defense lawyer’s submission of an official copy of the defendant’s death certificate.

    Instead of complying, however, Aspiras filed a motion for reconsideration via registered mail stamped December 16, 2020 which reached the court only on February 1, 2021.

    The Sandiganbayan said the filing violated procedures, did not comply with the reglementary period, and offered no justifiable cause.

    It declared the decision of conviction has attained finality, cancelled Jikiri’s bail bond and ordered the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him.

    His lawyer also landed in hot water as the resolution will be sent to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Supreme Court for action regarding his false declarations in court.

    “Accused Jikiri’s counsel was present during the promulgation and blatantly misrepresented before the Court that his client already passed away,” the Sandiganbayan noted.

    “The Court is hereby giving Atty. Jose V. Aspiras five (5) days from receipt of this Resolution to explain why no sanction shall be imposed upon him for making a manifestation with the Court regarding the death of accused Yusop Hussin Jikiri when the truth is said accused is still very much alive,” it added.