(File photo)

The city government has rejected former mayor Edward Hagedorn’s plea bargain offer in the malversation of public property case filed against him before the Ombudsman’s Office for failing to return and properly account 14 firearms.

City administrator and legal adviser Atty. Arnel Pedrosa said the Mayor’s Office received a copy of Hagedorn’s letter of intent on April 15 to plead guilty to a lesser offense to be fined instead of being imprisoned because of the case they filed against him in 2014 at the 3rd Division of the Sandiganbayan.

The malversation of public property involves the 14 firearms back in 2013 that the city government claimed Hagedorn failed to account properly.

“May lumabas na letter of intent on the part of his lawyers offering that their client is willing to enter into a plea bargain, provided na ‘yong offense kung saan man siya magple-plead guilty is a lesser offense at ang condition ay instead of imprisonment baka puwedeng fine na lang ang penalty. ‘Yong dahilan din kasi ni Mr. Hagedorn ay nahihirapan na siya dahil sa edad niya, of course, ‘yong karamdaman niya ano, well naiintindihan ni Mayor Bayron iyan. If you will read the comment the mayor commiserates with the pain and suffering of the accused, kaya lang the mayor (Bayron) would like to see to it na maibalik ‘yong mga baril at ma-determine ng korte kung ano talaga ‘yong [nararapat na parusa]… [na] ibigay na lang ‘yong tamang parusa kung ano ‘yong nakalagay sa law,” Pedrosa said.

He said there were two cases that were actually filed against the former Puerto Princesa mayor and one was graft and corruption.

Pedrosa said they only commented on the malversation of public property case because it was not the city government that filed the graft and corruption.

“Dalawang cases ‘yon. ‘yong isa graft and corruption, ‘yong isa malversation of public property. Nag-comment lang kami doon sa malversation of public property kasi doon party complainant ‘yong city government. Doon sa graft and corruption iba naman ‘yong complainant so hindi kami nag-comment doon, parang private individual ‘yong complainant doon,” he added.

In his letter-comment to the plea bargain, a copy of which was given by Pedrosa to Palawan News, Mayor Lucilo Bayron opposed the plea bargaining of Hagedorn because it would “actually defeat than serve the ends of justice.”

“The proposal of the accused to plead guilty to the crime charged with stipulated penalty of FINE ONLY is simply not acceptable considering the nature and gravity of the offense charged and penalty provided therefore, not to mention the fact that there is strong and sufficient evidence against the accused to obtain his conviction [sic],” Bayron said in his comment which was submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman on April 16 this year.

The case in 2014 was filed in the Ombudsman’s Office, which lifted it to the Sandiganbayan in 2016 after finding probable cause, he said.

Hagedorn has asked the city government to make him liable for “failure to render accounts”, a lesser offense compared to malversation of public property which carries a maximum penalty of imprisonment.

Pedrosa said Hagedorn failed to return the high-powered firearms when he stepped down as mayor in 2013.

“Matagal-tagal na rin [ang mga ito sa kaniya], kasi dapat naisauli ‘yan bago siya bumaba sa puwesto noong 2013. So 2019 na ngayon, so six years na after his term ended na nasa kanya [ang mga ito]. Mga armalite ito, high-powered firearms siya, parang 14 pieces siya, pero [mas] maganda para mabigay ‘yong eksaktong figure kung ilan ‘yong naibalik niya at hindi pa, puwede kayong pumunta sa GSO (General Services Office) namin, mas credible ‘yong kaniyang statetment kung ilan. Ang importante lang naman sa city government maibalik ‘yong mga baril na ‘yon, ‘yong totoong baril na may mga serial numbers ‘yon, para hindi magamit sa hindi maganda. Kasi habang hindi sila naibabalik, considered loose firearms siya, so puwede siyang mapunta sa kamay ng mga taong baka hindi puwedeng pagkatiwalaang humawak ng baril,” Pedrosa pointed out.

He said the Sandiganbayan is yet to decide on these two pending criminal cases.

Pedrosa said that there is a “slim chance” that the Sandiganbayan will grant Hagedorn’s proposed plea bargaining.

“Ang pinaka-say lang ng city government sa mga ganyang offer, nakalagay ‘yan sa Section 2 ng Rule 163 ng Rules of Court na bago payagan ang isang akusado na mag-enter ng guilty plea sa lesser offense ay dapat may consent, ang word [ay] ‘consent’, of the prosecutor and of the cpmplainant. So dapat concurring ‘yong dalawang consents na ‘yon. Iyong prosecutor or fiscal kung pumayag at ‘yong complainant kung pumayag din. Without these consents ay hindi puwedeng payagan ng korte ‘yong plea bargaining,” Pedrosa said.

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