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‘Strip-searched’ DH jailed for theft, says she will appeal

07 June 2018

By Vir B. Lumicao
Eastern magistrate denied application
for bail pending appeal

A Filipina helper accused of stealing a $500 banknote and a lip balm from her employer was sentenced to 28 days in prison on Jun 7 after an Eastern court magistrate found her guilty of theft.

Despite the setback, Margie Lotino’s defense counsel quickly began the process of appeal. He applied for bail on the defendant’s behalf so an appeal against her
conviction could be launched at the High Court.

The prosecutor, defense lawyer, court interpreters, agency representative and a Consulate officer who had stood by Lotino during the six days of trial, returned to the court for the bail application just minutes after Magistrate Simon Ho meted out the sentence.

But Ho rejected the application, saying, “I cannot see any reason why I should grant bail”.

Ho then threw a glance at Lotino, who was crying inconsolably.

The magistrate said he gave weight to the prosecution’s evidence and also on the  defendant’s statement to police in which she admitted her guilt. He also said the sentence he imposed was light, considering that the case involved a serious breach of trust.

Lotino’s trial was halted early on, when the magistrate decided to call six police officers to the witness stand to respond to the defendant’s complaint that they had made her strip down to her underwear during three separate interrogations.

The Filipino court interpreter was also called to explain why she allegedly told the defendant to admit the offense in her police statement.

Ho said the police witnesses were reliable and honest, and the court interpreter was independent and accurate and would not have sided with any of the parties in the case.

In the previous hearing on May 16, Ho rejected an attempt by the defense to include the alleged repeated body-searches and other police misconduct in Lotino’s evidence. He also cleared the officers of misconduct.

On Apr 20, Lotino accused her female employer, who is a teacher and wife of a traffic officer, of framing her up. She said she signed a statement admitting the offenses because she was cold, hungry, fatigued from lack of sleep and under intense pressure from body searches and interrogations lasting more than 14 hours before she was freed on bail.

She said during the ordeal the police refused to give her water or make phone calls to the Consulate or to Technic Employment Service Centre Ltd, which deployed her.

Technic staff Melanie Fisher testified on May 16, saying Lotino went straight to the agency distraught after being released by the police. The next morning, she took Lotino to the Consulate’s assistance to nationals section to seek help.

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