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Mission bails out DH in theft case, PCG offers shelter

27 April 2017

By Vir B. Lumicao

A Filipina domestic worker accused of shop theft was granted bail by a magistrate on Apr 26, two days after the High Court judge told the lower court to speed up the case as the defendant had been in jail for some time.

Helen L. Macaranas was finally released after 5pm at Kwun Tong court, after the Mission for Migrant Workers posted the cash bail of $1,000 and surety in equal amount.

She was told to remain at the OWWA shelter in Kennedy Town which offered to take her in, after the Mission told the court it could not give the address of its shelter for security reasons.

Earlier, Macaranas appeared before Magistrate Ernest Lin, who questioned why the bail issue was thrown back to his court by the judge.

The prosecutor said he was not aware of the details, only that Justice Pang Kin-kee wanted the magistrates’ court to set an earlier hearing of the case. The hearing was originally set for May 4, slightly more than a month after the defendant was arrested on Apr 3.

The prosecutor also told the court that it was defense that asked for a month-long adjournment as Macaranas didn’t have bail money. The duty lawyer assigned to defend her also said he needed more time to get legal advice and view a CCTV footage of the alleged theft.

Macaranas was kept in custody after she was unable to pay the $2,000 bail set by Lin. She went to the High Court to seek a lower bail, saying she had only about $300 in her wallet.

When Pang heard that the goods she allegedly stole from Aeon Supermarket in Tseung Kwan O were worth less than $200, she looked set to grant her bail. But when the judge asked the maid where she would stay if granted bail, she replied in her employer’s house. The judge asked for another address because the prosecutor told the court the helper had been terminated by her employer. But as Macaranas could not give any, Pang gave her until Apr 24 to find a shelter and she would grant her bail.

On Apr 24, Macaranas told Pang the Mission for Migrant workers had offered her shelter but did not provide the address. The judge said in that case she could not grant her bail. But Pang ordered the prosecutor to ask the magistrate to bring the hearing forward.

The Kwun Tong Court did so on Apr 26, but the prosecution said it was a new bail application, prompting Lin to ask why the judge referred the case back to his court.

The defense lawyer said the Mission was offering to take in Macaranas but would not give the shelter’s address for security reasons.

“How can I grant you bail if you can’t give me the shelter’s address?” Lin asked. He adjourned the case for half an hour to give the lawyer time to get the shelter’s address.

When the hearing resumed, the defense said the Consulate had given its shelter’s address, so Lin granted Macaranas bail of $1,000 and surety of $1,000 for the defendant’s release.

Edwina Antonio, executive director of Bethune House for Migrant Women’s Refuge, told The SUN when contacted by phone that for the past 30 years the Mission had not given its address to the court for the safety of its clients.

Vice Consul Alex Vallespin said when informed by The SUN of Macaranas’ situation that it would take the Department of Foreign Affairs three to six weeks to clear funding. Then minutes later he called The SUN and said ATN got the police to agree to release the defendant on payment of $300 bail with the balance to be paid later. He said his officer Hermogenes Cayabyab Jr was now attending to the case.

At 3pm, however, the duty lawyer called up the Mission about the bail money as no one from the Consulate had come for Macaranas. The Mission raised the bail money and sent its case officer Esther Bangcawayan to deposit it with the court and fetch the defendant.

Macaranas was released after the court staff explained that she can only stay in the address given in court – the OWWA shelter in Kennedy Town – and Bangcawayan agreed.  At 6pm, she was handed to the Philippine Overseas Labor Office which administers the shelter.

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