CA junks with finality criminal raps vs. 14 NPC execs

February 24, 2012 12:17 pm 

MANILA, Feb. 23 – The Court of Appeals (CA) has dismissed with finality the criminal case filed against 14 officials of the National Press Club (NPC), stemming from the controversial sale of the Vicente Manansala mural painting on the NPC Bldg. in Intramuros, Manila.

In a two-page resolution of the CA's 13th Division penned by Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla, it denied the motion for reconsideration (MR) filed by the state pension fund agency Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) against the NPC officials.

The CA ruled that the court maintains its ruling on October 7, 2011 since there are no new arguments presented which would warrant the reversal of their earlier decision.

"An assiduous evaluation of the said motion for reconsideration led us to conclude that there exists no compelling and justifiable reason for us to veer away from our earlier pronouncement. The arguments presented by petitioner had already been traversed and ruled upon by us. There is no need to belabor the issues one more time," it said.

"Wherefore, on account of the foregoing, we deny the said motion for reconsideration," the CA said.

Concurring in the CA decision were Associate Justices Fernanda Lampas-Peralta and Agnes Reyes-Carpio.

The CA said that former Justice Secretary Alberto Agra was correct when he issued a resolution on June 11, 2010 withdrawing his earlier resolution which ordered the indictment of the journalists before the trial court for the supposed "theft and illegal sale" of the painting.

NPC officials Roy Mabasa, Benny Antiporda, Louie Logarta, Amor Virata, Jun Cobarrubias, Jerry Yap, Alvin Feliciano, Joey Venancio, William Depasupil, Dennis Fetalino, Joel Sy Egco, Conrad Generoso, Rolly Gonzalo, and Samuel Julian were cleared of any criminal liability.

The CA denied the petition for review filed by the GSIS claiming ownership of the mural.

In 2010, Agra held that there was no probable cause to indict the 14 officers for violation of Article 308 in relation to Article 310 of the Revised Penal Code (qualified theft).

Likewise, Agra also ruled that the mural's buyer, Odette Alcantara, did not violate Presidential Decree 1612, otherwise known as the "Anti-Fencing Law."

The CA also took into consideration a Regional Trial Court of Pasay City ruling which declared that it is the NPC that owned the Manansala painting at the time that it was removed from the wood-framed wall of press club building in January 2007.

Agra reversed his findings because of the new evidence presented by the NPC officials.

It can be recalled that the GSIS filed its complaint against the NPC officials when it discovered that the painting was sold for P10 million.

The complaint alleged that the NPC officials were liable for qualified theft for its failure to inform them prior to the sale.

In its decision, the CA said that even if it concedes that the GSIS owns the lot and the NPC building, "such ownership does not include the mural."

"Stated differently, the mural remains to be owned by the NPC," the CA said.

It added that "clearly, petitioner GSIS never became the owner of the subject painting when it bought the NPC building as well as the land on which it stood."

Thus, the CA said that the GSIS "cannot charge private respondents for qualified theft and violation of the anti-fencing law for selling the subject property." (PNA)

DCT/scs/PTR

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