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Lawmaker evades theft raps, tagged as fugitive

PARTY-LIST Rep. Michael Romero of 1-Pacman is now a fugitive from justice after he failed to appear before a Manila Regional Trial Court on Feb. 6 on charges of qualified theft, a prosecutor said Tuesday.

Romero cannot be located and has not been attending sessions at the House of Representatives since early this year, the source said.

Branch Clerk of Court Julie Aylene D. Mendoza has endorsed the warrant of arrest to the Philippine National Police and its district offices, and to the National Bureau of Investigation for enforcement.

The arrest order stemmed from the case of qualified theft involving some P3.4 million that Romero and two others had been accused of stealing from the Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc. 

There is no bail allowed for qualified theft if the stolen amount is P222,000 or more.

Also accused of the same offense is former HCPTI cashier Felicia T. Aquino, who has petitioned the Court of Appeals for certiorari and prohibition.Edwin Jeremillo is a former chief operating officer of HCPTI.

In a resolution that led to the filing of the criminal cases before the court, the Manila Prosecutors’ Office said Romero, Aquino, and Jeremillo conspired in 2007 to issue 18 checks in one day, with each bearing the amount of P200,000 supposedly for “marketing expenses” and payable to National Food Authority or Felicia Aquino.

1-Pacman Rep. Michael Romero
“This cannot be done. Doing so indicates badges of felony. No document whatsoever was submitted by the respondents showing transaction between HCPTI (Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc.) and the NFA [National Food Authority],” the resolution stated.

The cases were first raffled to the sala of Judge Jean Marie A. Bacorro-Villena who inhibited herself on a motion filed by complainant lawyer Jerome Canlas of HCPTI.

Before the inhibition, Judge Bacorro-Villena granted the motion of the accused to suspend proceedings. The accused also pleaded for a redetermination of probable cause, withholding of the issuance of arrest order, and outright dismissal of the charges.

On Sept. 5, 2016, the DoJ filed a motion to withdraw the information (criminal charge sheet) against the three accused.

With Judge Bacorro-Villena’s inhibition, the cases were assigned to Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. through a raffle.

In issuing the arrest order, Jurado cited a Supreme Court ruling that “once the court acquires jurisdiction, any other proceeding in another agency will have no bearing on the court’s actions on the case, strictly stated, the court has already acquired jurisdiction.”

Topics: Rep. Michael Romero , Manila Regional Trial Court , Qualified theft , Warrant of arrest , Branch Clerk of Court Julie Aylene D. Mendoza , Philippine National Police , National Bureau of Investigation
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