LACSON QUESTIONS U.S. COURT JURISDICTION

San Francisco, California, Feb. 2, 2003 - Sen. Panfilo Lacson was told by his newly-hired American lawyer here that he would seek the nullification of a Superior Court order in Alameda county ordering him to pay damages of more than $3 million.

His lawyer, Sig Fortun, who accompanied him told Michael Cardozo, the American lawyer, said that the decision of the superior court rendered on Lacson's default is not based on facts and the law.

In the first place, Fortun said, there is the basic question of jurisdiction. The contract was signed in the Philippines, he said, and therefore any court litigation in connection with the deal cannot be done in any court outside the Philippines.

The Alameda superior court, he said, did not have jurisdiction over the case, and therefore its decision should be set aside.

Fortun explained that Rodil Rodis. lawyer of handcuffs supplier Blanquita Pelaez, made it appear that he was authorized by the Alameda court to serve summonses and examination order to Lacson.

The Alameda court, Fortun said, "clearly specified that Federico Cristobal Jr. as the only person authorized to do so."

Rodis, Fortun said, failed to respond to letters and queries about the case. Normally, the counsel informs his opponent of all the pleadings submitted to a court about a case. There is no record that Rodis complied with this practice but illegally appropriated unto himself the duty of serving Lacson a copy of the examination order which is specified to be the duty of Cristobal.

He said that most of the allegations are baseless and the complaint should have been dismissed by the Alameda court. At the very least, he said, the court should have verified the allegations of the complainant.

Fortun also denied an allegation by Rodis that "on or about Sept. 12, 2001, Lacson told a group of Filipinos in Oakland, San Francisco and Contra Costa that Pelaez was a scam artist and a smuggler."

Lacson and an aide said that on the day Lacson was supposed to have made remark, they were in Las Vegas.

Under the contract, Pelaez was obliged to pay taxes on handcuffs she was to supply the PNP but later tried to pass the burden to the government. Her refusal to pay taxes and duties prompted Lacson, then PNP chief, to cancel the contract on the ground of non-delivery.

The supposedly libelous remark was reportedly heard by one Pol Tuazon who was never presented in court and therefore could not be cross-examined to determine the truth of what he claimed he heard.

Neither was there any corroboration of the allegedly slanderous statement.

To cap the lies, Fortun said, Rodis told the Alameda court that the latter alleged that at the time the suit by Ms. Pelaez was filed in Dec. 2001, Lacson had properties and bank accounts in the United States.

"There were no such assets in the United States," Fortun said, citing Lacson's statement of assets and liabilities.

Fortun said it was not true that PNP asked customs for the deferment of duties and taxes. Instead, he said, the PNP conveyed to Pelaez its decision denying her request that the government shoulder the duties and taxes on the handcuffs shipment.

Pelaez, through Rodis, alleged before the court that "this total price (P15.673 million) is inclusive of taxes and customs duties, that this total price is a fixed price and shall not be affected by future peso-to-dollar exchange rate, and that the PNP, within 30 days from the execution of the contract and purchase order, shall execute a letter of credit to Smith & Wesson."

What Rodis did not tell the court, nor did he submit a copy of the agreement he cited, was the fact that on June 2, 2000, the National Police Commission, sitting en banc, ordered the PNP to stick to the original agreement.

The Napolcom decision stated that "the undated supplemental agreement between the PNP and Smith & Wesson represented in the Philippines by BH Pelaez Enterprises for the reduction in quantities to be delivered from 41,297 to 31,262 pairs of handcuffs, as well as the supplemental agreement for the modification of the terms of the original contract from 'inclusive of customs duties, taxes and VAT' to 'exclusive of customs duties, taxes and VAT,' are hereto set aside and the original contract ... between the parties dated Dec. 27, 1996 (long before Lacson became PNP chief) should be enforced and given due course."

In compliance with the original contract, the PNP paid 80 percent of the purchase price. Fortun said Rodis made it appear before the Alameda court that no payment was ever made because Lacson blocked it.

Rodis also told the court that Pelaez had to move to the United States "for her own safety" and that she continues to "incur damages and emotional distress."

The truth is, Fortun said, Pelaez has been convicted for issuing bouncing checks in at least two cases in Pasig City.

A regional trial court affirmed the decision in the case filed by a certain Paz Purugganan against Pelaez for allegedly issuing a P500,000 check that was dishonored. (Amado Macasaet, Malaya)


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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