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Court recalls arrest warrants in Luneta Hotel sale case

MANILA, Philippines - A Manila regional trial court (RTC) judge recalled the arrest warrants against five persons accused of illegally selling the Luneta Hotel for P25 million in May 2007.

In a three-page order dated March 16, Manila RTC Judge Amor Reyes said the arrest warrants issued last Feb. 4 against Erlinda Panlilio, Mario Cristobal, Nicole Morris, Jose Marcel Panlilio, and Herminio Valerio should be recalled. The judge also suspended the proceedings in the syndicated estafa case against the respondents until May 16.

State Prosecutor II Phillip de la Cruz earlier found probable cause to indict the five for syndicated estafa.

Cristobal was also found liable for falsification of public documents, records said.

In recalling the warrants, Reyes took into account the arguments of Erlinda Panlilio, Jose Marcel and Nicole Morris that “a refusal to defer the case on account of the motion for reconsideration violates the rights of the accused to due process.”

Reyes also took into account another argument “that there is no sufficient basis for probable cause for this case to proceed and for arrest warrant to be issued.”

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The accused also cited that “considering the gravity of the offense charged, there is a heavier presumption of innocence leading to the inevitable conclusion that the case be deferred if not dismissed outright.”

The court also said that the “public prosecutor did not interpose any objection to all the motions of all the accused.”

The 89-year-old hotel, which boasts of French Renaissance architecture built in 1918, was originally owned by Rizal Park Hotel Inc. (RPHI), whose incorporators included Panlilio, Rebecco Panlilio, Modesto Enriquez, Trinidad Enriquez and Leandro Enriquez.

However, the group transferred their shares of stock to H. E. Heacock Resources Corp. on Sept. 15, 1973, but remained as trustees of RPHI “to protect and promote the interests of Heacock.”

The case stemmed from a recommendation of the National Bureau of Investigation for the Department of Justice to conduct a preliminary investigation on a complaint filed by Santiago Alvarez Jr., who was authorized by Heacock to file the suit.

Alvarez claimed that he discovered that RPHI’s Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registration was revoked on July 2, 2003. 

Reports said the respondents sold the 499.50-square-meter property to Beaumont Holdings Corp. without authority from Heacock. As a result of the sale, Beaumont registered the property under its name. – Sandy Araneta

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