FORMER Puerto Princesa City mayor Edward Hagedorn will face a full-blown trial for the 27 criminal charges filed against him in 2017 by the Office of the Ombudsman over his alleged unexplained wealth.
In a resolution issued last February 24, the Sandiganbayan Third Division threw out Hagedorn’s motion seeking a reversal of the Nov. 25, 2019 ruling that denied the joint motion he filed with the prosecution seeking approval of a plea bargaining agreement.
Hagedorn was earlier charged with nine counts each of perjury, graft and violation of section 8 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) over alleged misrepresentations in his statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) for the years 2004 to 2012.
Graft investigation and prosecution officer Ryan Hartzell C. Balisacan claimed Hagedorn deliberately left out from his SALNs his ownership of various real properties, motor vehicles, and corporate/business interests.
Among the assets allegedly not mentioned in Hagedorn’s SALNs were 59 parcels of agricultural and residential lands, as well as commercial buildings, and 49 motor vehicles most of them motorcycles and a few cars, including a BMW, a Volvo, and three Sports Utility Vehicles (SUVs).
The prosecution said the accused also held interests in several companies involved in food, media, tourism, and properties.
The Ombudsman noted Hagedorn’s SALNs from 2004 to 2012 showed he declared only three real properties located in Puerto Princesa City and one real property located in Parañaque City.
In his motion, Hagedorn asked the court to “take a second hard look” into his case as he underscored that they are mere allegations which have not been proven.
He insisted that he declared his net worth in good faith while he was in government service, saying he even attached a separate list to his SALN to include all the assets he could think of as they did not fit in the official form.
The accused said that, not being a lawyer, he tried to comply with the law as he understood them.
However, the court said the motion lacked merit and clarified that Hagedorn’s contention that the cases were mere allegations will be addressed during a full blown trial.
“Undoubtedly, the court cannot conclusively pass on the merits of the allegations without the formal introduction of evidence and the rigors of trial,” the Sandiganbayan said.
It pointed out that a trial will accord Hagedorn the opportunity to expound his claims of good faith, lack of malice, and substantial compliance to the rules for the filing of SALNs.
The court added that allowing the accused former mayor to plea bargain would be to deal a “veritable slap on the wrist” considering the length of time and number of properties involved.
“To be sure, such an outcome trivializes the purposes for requiring the filing of SALN.
Approving such an agreement would be the height of disservice to the public,” the court said.