By HERBIE GOMEZ
Editor in chief
and NITZ ARANCON
CONVICTED pedophile Peter Gerard Scully was able to access a scheme that made him a recipient of Aus$500 thousand or approximately P20 million in legal defense aid paid for by the taxpayers of his country, Australian media reports show.
The Sydney-based Australian newspaper reported early this year that taxes were used to shoulder the costs of Scully’s defense since 2015 through Australia’s Serious Overseas Criminal Matters Scheme.
The Scully case prompted Australian Attorney-General Christian Porter to order, just this March, a review of the legal support scheme for Australians in legal trouble and facing the prospects of imprisonment of over 20 years in other countries, various Australian media reports show.
On Wednesday, regional Judge Jose Escobido slapped the 54-year old Scully and his former girlfriend Carme Ann Alvarez with a guilty verdict for human trafficking and with a life sentence. The man from Melbourne was also found guilty of five counts of rape that carried a maximum imprisonment of 45 years.
Scully’s legal problem is not yet over — there are still 60 pedophilia-related cases against him.
In Australia, Porter was worried that pedophiles were accessing the legal support funds at the expense of Australian taxpayers and so, he wanted to consider the possibility of barring them from the scheme.
Exactly how much of the Australian dollars actually went to the defense lawyers here remain unclear.
But what was clear was that Scully changed lawyers several times since 2015, the year he was arrested and when he, according to media reports, started receiving legal support from Australia.
Regional State Prosecutor Merlynn Uy said Scully replaced his lawyers at least four times during the three-year legal battle apparently to dilly-dally.
“That (changing lawyers) was part of his delaying tactics,” said Uy, adding that even Judge Escobido took note of this in his 70-page decision.
Replacing lawyers, according to Uy, allowed Scully to file all sorts of motions and pleadings to delay the prosecution.
“At every turn, we managed to oppose it. The judge gave them (defense) many chances just so they would be able to present their side,” she said.
Adonis Gumahad, one of Scully’s former lawyers, said he filed a total of 29 motions on behalf of the Australian within a period of one year.
Gumahad handled Scully’s defense in 2016 along with lawyers Ernesto Bongado, Nelson Philip Carpio and Bender Apepe.
He said he and his group stopped lawyering for Scully after a year because of a misunderstanding. Gumahad declined to elaborate, citing the lawyer-client confidentiality reason.
“I just told him (Scully) to issue a termination order because we no longer understood each other,” he said.
Gumahad said Scully then took back his first lawyer, Alejandro Jose Pallugna, who represented the Australian following his arrest by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Malaybalay, Bukidnon, in 2015.
Pallugna no longer stood as Scully’s lawyer when the guilty verdict was read this week. In his place was a relatively new lawyer, Lizzamae La Viña.
But outside the courtroom was Pallugna who made it clear that he was no longer Scully’s lawyer. Asked why he parted ways with the Australian for the second time, Pallugna said, “Dugay kaayo mobayad!”