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Granny with fake check denied bail, gets new court date

23 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A 75-year-old Filipina tourist accused of trying to cash a fake US$50 million check will appear in court again on May 16, this time with a lawyer.

 The District Court has put off for six weeks the hearing of Maria Ilao Gosilatar when she appeared in court on Mar 30 unrepresented by a lawyer.

Judge Eddie Yip also rejected a bail application by Maria Ilao Gosilatar, who has been in jail since she and a male Hong Kong accountant were arrested last Dec 9 during the botched transaction at the Hang Seng Bank headquarters in Central.

Gosilatar got a boost on her first appearance in District Court from the presence of two officers of the Consulate and two relatives from the Philippines.

In previous hearings in the Eastern Court, Gosilatar looked frail and had been coughing.

Gosilatar was scheduled to enter her plea to a charge of “using a false instrument”, but the defense lawyer for a previous case stood up and told the judge the woman had no representation.

“I am not her lawyer, your honor, but I can remember that she applied for legal aid on Mar 13 but withdrew it to engage a private lawyer,” the barrister said.

When Judge Yip asked Gosilatar why she withdrew her application, the defendant said: “Your honor, I really wanted to be represented by legal aid but they told me I can’t get free legal aid…”

The judge said it was highly unlikely that she could get legal aid without a contribution, but said she could always apply again, though that would take time.

He asked Gosilatar if she was on bail or in custody and the woman replied she was in Tai Lam Women’s Centre hospital.

The judge said he was scheduling the next hearing for mention on May 16 to give the defendant time to reapply for legal aid.

“If the legal aid position is not favorable to you, then you’ll have to find a private lawyer. It’s essential that you have legal aid because your case so demands and you won’t be able to defend yourself,” the judge said.

Asked if she had any bail application, Gosilatar said she did have but that her resources were limited. “I can only raise $300,000 and my friend can put up a $50,000 surety,” the woman said.

The prosecutor, however, stood up and opposed bail for the defendant, citing that she came from the Philippines, she had no local ties, the offense had international element and the evidence was strong.

Asked if she had anything else to say, Gosilatar said: “All I can say is the Philippine Consulate said they can help me, actually they are here.”

The judge looked at the gallery asking who the consulate representatives were and Vice Consul Alex Vallespin, head of the assistance to nationals section, stood up.

“Your honor, I don’t think I have something to say at the moment. We’ve been visiting her often. She just wants to be out on bail because of deteriorating health,” said Vallespin.

The judge turned to Gosilatar and said: “I refuse your bail application. You can apply at the Court of First Instance for bail.”

After the hearing, Vallespin and ATN officer Hermogenes Cayabyab Jr conferred with Gosilatar and her relatives before the defendant was led back to jail.

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