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Sitoy-Cho’s lawyer says judge handling her case ‘biased’

By: Futch Anthony Inso - CDN Digital Correspondent | April 26,2024 - 09:05 PM


Former Cordova mayor Therese Sitoy-Cho | File Photo

LAPU-LAPU CITY, Cebu — The legal counsel of former Cordova Mayor Therese Sitoy-Cho described Mandaue City Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 55 Judge Ferdinand Tapado Rafanan as biased in handling the case of his client.

Lawyer Edgar Gica also denied the allegation that his client ignored the invitation to attend an arraignment on April 23.

“We can never disobey the law,” Gica said.

Gica clarified that the case at hand is a criminal one filed by Comelec lawyers against Sitoy-Cho for an election offense, without involvement from the Department of Justice (DOJ).

“The DOJ is tasked with prosecuting criminal offenses in our country,” he added.

The complaint stemmed from Cho’s order to transfer a certain Juliete Tampus during the election period without seeking exemption from the Comelec.

Tampus, an employee of the Municipal Agriculture Office, was transferred to another office in January 2022 during the election period for the May 2022 Presidential Election.

Under Section 261(h) of the Omnibus Election Code, it is prohibited for a public official to transfer or detail any officer or employee in the civil service, including public school teachers, within the election period except upon prior approval from the Comelec.

Gica further explained that Comelec filed the case before Mandaue RTC Branch 55, presided over by Judge Rafanan, who previously served in Comelec’s law department. Judge Rafanan issued a warrant of arrest with an unspecified bail amount.

The former mayor attempted to post bail, but the judge refused, insisting on arraignment before granting bail. The arraignment was scheduled for March 26, 2024, leaving Sitoy-Cho vulnerable to arrest starting February until the arraignment or bail approval.

“Judge Rafanan appears biased in favor of Comelec,” the lawyer alleged.

On March 1, 2024, Cho posted bail worth P36,000 for the said case before the RTC in Barili for her temporary liberty.

They also filed a motion for voluntary inhibition against Judge Rafanan, which he denied, setting a hearing despite their request for reconsideration.

“We advised our client to abstain from the April 23, 2024, hearing to maintain focus on our pending motions,” he stated.

They also plan to address their concerns with Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo regarding Judge Rafanan’s conduct.

Earlier, Judge Rafanan ordered the issuance of a bench warrant against the former mayor after failing to attend her arraignment.


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TAGS: Comelec, Cordova

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