Piatco criminal case ordered to proceed

By Rey E. Requejo

A Manila regional trial court has paved the way for the criminal prosecution of the officials of the Philippine International Airport Terminal Co. (Piatco) for monopolies and combinations in deals involving services at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

In a 38-page decision, RTC Judge Virgilio Alameda of Branch 10 remanded the case to Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 9, to determine whether there was probable cause to prosecute the accused.

“The trial court failed to make an independent evaluation or assessment of the existence of probable cause, much less, an evaluation of the evidence supporting its findings,” he said, adding that “the determination of probable cause after the filing of an information in court is a legal duty vested in the trial court for purposes of issuance of a warrant of arrest.”

Alameda also ruled that the private complainant in the case had legal status to pursue the case, pointing out that “the crime involving violation of Article 186 of the Revised Penal Code is admittedly a crime against public interest and the private complainant has invoked his right to intervene in the criminal case or to bring this appeal before this Court which in his view is necessary to defend public interest.”

Among the accused in the case filed by lawyer Jose Bernas are Piatco officials Dr. Wilhelm Bender, Bernd Struck, Remy Tigulo, Oscar Lopez Dee, Rolando Esguerra, Jefferson Cheng, Stephan Bauchspiess, Cheng Yong, Hiroshi Kanematsu, Lim Kwee Siah, Henry Go, Tony King, Nilo Pena, Antonio Pacis and Jose Perpetuo Lotilla.

The suit was filed in 2003 after investigators found that Piatco officials agreed to monopolize catering, cargo-handling and other airport-related services at the terminal.

The firm also wanted only its affiliates to be Terminal 3’s service providers.

The case was filed before the lower court after state prosecutors initially found enough basis to go to trial.

But after the Department of Justice overruled the finding, the public prosecutor moved to withdraw the case, which was granted.

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