Sentenced to 17-year jail term
blames lawyers for SC appeal fiasco
A municipal treasurer who has been convicted for malversation of public funds has blamed his own lawyers for failing to appeal his case to the Supreme Court on time.
In a letter sent early this December, Caramoran municipal treasurer Wilbert S. Tablizo asked Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr. to do something to have his petition to be studied by the High Court. He told the Chief Justice that he was convicted by Sandiganbayan in Criminal Case No. 18441, with his case appealed to the Supreme Court by way of a Petition for Review On Certiorari.
However, Tablizo's lawyer did not file the petition on time causing the High Court to deny the petition as well as subsequent motions for reconsideration, decreeing that the case be considered final and allowing no further pleadings.
"Because of the negligence of my lawyer, my Petition was filed late, was denied, and I am now made to suffer the penalty imposed by the Sandiganbayan," Tablizo rued. He said he is willing to accept another denial after the Court studies the petition, adding that "at least, I would have the consolation that my side was heard."
In his Verified Motion for Belated Admission of Attached Petition for Review on Certiorari prepared by another lawyer and filed last Sept. 23, 1999 before the Supreme Court, Tablizo said the late filing of the petition is directly due to the "inexcusable negligence/dereliction of duty, and the concealment of such negligence/dereliction of duty by deception and/or betrayal, committed by members of the Bar who have...betrayed herein petitioner and thereby grossly violated their Attorney's Oath.”
He said that when judgment in his case was promulgated on April 14, 1997, his counsel of record, Atty. Oscar Fider, was already incapacitated by a near-fatal stroke. "So, I requested Atty. Evelyn L. Gutierrez, a province mate of mine to appear as my counsel at said promulgation," he told the Court. "I also requested her to handle my appeal in case of conviction."
When he was indeed convicted, Atty. Gutierrez manifested to the Sandiganbayan's First Division that Tablizo would be appealing to the High Court. She told him that she and her husband, Atty. Alfred L. Gutierrez, would be handling the appeal and charged him a fee of P5,000.00, of which P2,000 was paid as downpayment in Virac.
Tablizo said that on April 18, 1997, upon instructions of Atty. Evelyn L. Gutierrez, he went to the office of her husband at the Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) in Manila, where Atty. Alfred Gutierrez prepared a "Motion for Extension of Time to File Appeal by Certiorari" for filing with the Supreme Court.
Atty. Gutierrez had the motion signed by one Atty. Estela I. Crisostomo, an lawyer in her 70s who was working as a notary public just outside the BID building. "Atty. A. Gutierrez told me that he had to have the motion signed by said Atty. Crisostomo because, according to Atty. A. Gutierrez, he and his wife Atty. Evelyn Gutierrez could not be signing court papers as they were both in government service, he at the BID, and his wife then being a Provincial Board Member of Catanduanes," Tablizo averred.
On that occasion, Tablizo paid P1,000.00 to Atty. Alfred Gutierrez, who assured the former that he would file the petition for review within the period prayed for.
Around the middle of May, 1997, Tablizo continued, he asked Atty. Evelyn Gutierrez for a copy of his petition, assuming it had already been filed, and she told him that her husband had forgotten to bring home a copy.
"For several times more, I asked Atty. Evelyn Gutierrez for a copy of the petition they had supposedly filed for me, but each time, she would give me one excuse or another for not being able to bring a copy to Virac, assuring me each time that my petition for review had been filed," Tablizo stated.
When in the early part of July 1999, when he told her that he was thinking of verifying with the Supreme Court whether the petition had been filed, Atty. Gutierrez told her that there was no need to do that, that such a trip would only put him to expense.
Later, he verified with the Supreme Court and was told that the only thing that had been filed was a motion for extension of time and that there was no petition for review. When he confronted Atty. Alfred Gutierrez at his BID office on July 29, 1999, the lawyer gave the excuse that he had given the petition to Atty. Crisostomo for filing but she must have forgotten to file it.
The lawyer offered to file a motion for late admission of a petition for review and prepared a "Verification," which, Atty. Gutierrez said in a handwritten note, was "to be attached to the motion to admit Petition for Review to be filed with Sandiganbayan."
When queried, Atty. Crisostomo denied having received any petition for review for or in behalf from Atty. Alfred Gutierrez or from anyone else.
Tablizo said in the 1999 petition to the Supreme Court that he is "clearly a victim of the Gutierrez spouses' unethical (to say the least) conduct." Claiming that he has a meritorious appeal, to deny him the appeal because of the misconduct of the lawyers that he made the mistake of entrusting with this case amounts to nothing less than a miscarriage of justice, Tablizo stressed.
It may be recalled that on November 18, 1992, treasurer Tablizo was charged of embezzling for his personal use P368,109.61 in funds of the municipal government of Caramoran as found out by the Commission on Audit. He was declared guilty beyond reasonable doubt by the Sandiganbayan on February 28, 1997 and was meted imprisonment ranging from 10 to 17 years and four months. Also sentenced to suffer perpetual special disqualification, Tablizo was likewise directed to pay a fine of P181,258.61 and to indemnify the municipality of Caramoran in the same amount.