The aunt and coaccused of presidential adviser Nereus Acosta on Thursday defended her move to turn state witness in their graft case at the Sandiganbayan and denied Acosta’s and his mother Socorro’s allegations that she had offered to withdraw her testimony in exchange for money.
In her comment filed before the antigraft court’s Fourth Division on Thursday, Nemia Bornidor said it was her nephew Nereus and her sister Socorro who had offered to bribe her so she would withdraw her petition to testify against them.
Bornidor also defended the timing of the filing of her petition to be state witness, and added that she has met all the legal requirements to be a state witness and be discharged as accused.
Nereus and Socorro Acosta earlier asked the Sandiganbayan to hold a hearing and require the prosecution to present evidence to support its approval of Bornidor as state witness. They contested her move, saying she had offered her affidavit for sale.
Graft from ‘pork’
The Acostas and Bornidor are facing graft charges for the
alleged misuse of Nereus’ priority development assistance fund or ‘pork barrel’ when he was representative of Bukidnon in Congress.
In her comment, Bornidor said she had entertained the Acostas’ attempts to convince her to withdraw her petition to turn state witness only to please her 92-year-old stepmother and to show her she was not a hard-hearted daughter.
She said that after a hearing of their case in January, Socorro asked her if their lawyer, a certain Atty. Castillo, could talk to her lawyer Raul Paayas. The lawyers later met and Paayas told Castillo there could be no settlement if other pending cases in other courts involving Bornidor’s children would not be settled as well.
Bornidor said Castillo then urged Paayas to convince Bornidor and her children to come up with the amount of their money claims against the Acostas from the other cases, and these would be paid for her to withdraw her petition. She added that Castillo had even regularly inquired about the figure from her lawyer.
According to her, Socorro was later told of their money claims and other demands. But she said these were designed specifically to discourage and prevent any settlement. Messages were also exchanged between the two camps’ lawyers discussing the lowering of the amount.
Bornidor said she later stopped negotiations after finding that she had convinced her stepmother that she had tried to reconcile with the Acostas.
“However, finding that her masquerade for settlement was already sufficient to convince her mother that she tried to grant her wish for her to reconcile with accused Nereus Acosta and Socorro Acosta, [Bornidor], through counsel, finally rebuffed their further attempts for her to withdraw her petition in exchange for payment of their money claims,” she said.
She also alleged that the Acostas resorted to “twisting the facts” against her and made it appear that she attempted to extort money.
Bornidor said it would be “foolhardy, if not totally insane,” for her to file a petition before the Office of the Ombudsman and be approved as state witness, and afterward withdraw the petition in exchange for money.