Wrong pleading fails to save ex-Camiguin mayor from prison

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    AN ailing lawyer, a lost phone number, and a missed deadline meant former Mahinog, Camiguin municipal mayor Alex R. Jajalla could not file an appeal on his graft conviction.

    When he finally got around to doing it, his new counsel invoked the wrong legal remedy. As a result, Jajalla is now facing a lengthy vacation in the slammer.

    In its 11-page resolution, the Sandiganbayan Seventh Division denied Jajalla’s urgent motion seeking reinstatement of his bail so he can stay out of prison while pursuing his appeal.

    Associate Justice Zaldy V. Trespeses, who penned the ruling, noted that what the defense filed was a petition for relief of judgment/order which is not applicable in criminal proceedings.

    “A petition for relief from judgment is based on Section 1, Rule 38 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure. However, this rule of procedure is evidently meant to apply only to civil cases. As the present proceeding is evidently criminal in nature, accused’s motion is devoid of legal basis,” the anti-graft court pointed out.

    Associate Justices Ma. Theresa Dolores C. Gomez-Estoesta and Georgina D. Hidalgo concurred.

    Jajalla was convicted of graft on September 24, 2018 and sentenced to at least six years in jail for causing injury to the municipal government and giving unwarranted benefit to his own brother, who received six months rehabilitation leave while under the local government payroll.

    The Sandiganbayan said the prosecution’s stand that the mayor’s brother injury was sustained in an accident not in the line of duty. A copy of the police blotter showed he was on his way to mass with his family when his motorcycle was hit by another motorcycle.

    The injured brother received P69,366 as compensation for the period covered.

    The defense made it appear that the mayor’s brother was headed to Barangay Pontod as an advance party for the mayor’s arrival.

    After his conviction, the accused said he engaged the services of another lawyer after his counsel of record fell ill.

    The new counsel filed a motion for reconsideration for the defendant which was denied in December 2018. However, Jajalla said he was not aware that his appeal had been denied as neither his original lawyer nor the replacement got in touch with him.

    The former counsel thought the mayor had hired another lawyer while the stand-in allegedly lost the contact number of the defendant’s staff who handled Jajalla’s schedule.

    Jajalla invoked “honest mistake or excusable negligence,” saying the execution of the verdict will cause “grave and irreparable damage to him by depriving him of life and liberty” without affording him the opportunity to exhaust all available legal remedies.
    The Sandiganbayan was not convinced.