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Saturday, April 13, 2024

Faeldon lawyer ousted as Calapan dad

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THE Sandiganbayan has disqualified from holding an elective position a lawyer of former Bureau of Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon.

Faeldon’s counsel, Jelina Maree Magsuci, currently sits as councilor of Calapan City, Oriental Mindoro.

The anti-graft court’s Fifth Division granted the Ombudsman’s motion for disqualification against Magsuci on the ground that she was prohibited by Republic Act 7160 or the Local Government Code, from acting as lawyer in any litigation.

However, the court did not act on the prosecution’s request to sanction Magsuci for representing Faeldon in court, but said “it is up to the proper authorities to take any action against her.”

In 2021, the Ombudsman filed a graft case on two counts against Faeldon for his alleged involvement in the smuggling of Vietnamese rice worth P34 million through the Port of Cagayan de Oro in 2017.

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Also cited as respondents were  Customs district collector Tomas Alcid and officials of Cebu Lite Trading Inc., importer of the questioned shipment.

The Ombudsman alleged that Faeldon illegally approved the release of the first shipment of 21,800 bags of rice valued at P18.5 million and the second batch of 18,200 bags worth P15.5 million even if these have already been seized by Customs officers for lack of valid import permits and non-payment of duties and taxes.

It was only on Feb. 22 this year that the Ombudsman informed the court that Magsuci is an incumbent member of the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Calapan. having been elected to the post in the May 2022 general elections.

Ombudsman lawyers said Section 90 (b) (2) of RA 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991 prohibits any Sanggunian member who is a lawyer from appearing as counsel in any criminal case wherein his or her client is a government official accused of an offense committed in relation to public office.

The Ombudsman also asked the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and the Department of the Interior and Local Government to sanction Magsuci.

Magsuci opposed the Ombudsman’s plea for her disqualification, saying that Faeldon was no longer connected with the BOC or any other government post even before she started representing him in court and got elected to her post.

Faeldon resigned as Customs commissioner on Sept. 4, 2019, while Magsuci entered her appearance as his lawyer on May 19, 2021.

The court rejected Magsuci’s defense.

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