Justice irked: ‘Philosophers’ in pork barrel case delay trial
Acting like they were descended from the great philosophers (pilosopo) Socrates and Aristotle, defense lawyers have been unnecessarily slowing down the plunder trial of those accused in the pork barrel scam, a Sandiganbayan justice lamented.
“If you insist on acting like the descendants of Socrates and Aristotle, the ends of justice will not be met,” Associate Justice Samuel Martires of the Sandiganbayan Third Division told several defense lawyers who had refused to hold a joint hearing on the plunder and graft cases filed against detained Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and several coaccused in connection with the P10-billion fund scam.
Noting how the defense lawyers had been raising countless arguments even during the pretrial conference, Martires brought up the importance of trying the cases at the same time to expedite the resolution of arguably the most controversial case the court had handled in recent years.
“As I have said, this is not for the benefit of the court, but for the benefit of your clients,” Martires told the lawyers at the continuation of Napoles’ bail hearing on Friday.
Cause of delay
“My logic can’t understand why the (defense lawyers) don’t like a joint trial of these cases,” he said. “I may already be retired in 2019 and this case is still pending before the Third Division. (Now) that’s favorable to me,” Martires said.
Reiterating the court’s position on the matter, the associate justice said the public might blame the antigraft court if the pork barrel cases take years to resolve.
Martires cited the civil and criminal suits the government had brought against the heirs of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos as a classic example of how lawyers can drag down the conclusion of cases.
“If you look at the records of the Marcos cases, you can see that the prosecutors and the counsels themselves were the cause of the delay in the dispensation of those cases and not the court,” he said.
The justice also brought up the court’s earlier suggestion to terminate the pretrial conference of the plunder and graft charges on the first week of February, and for the court to proceed with the trial proper.
Martires had earlier raised the court’s concern about the snail-paced proceedings in the marking of documentary evidence that the prosecution had wanted to present to support its allegations.
The prosecution on Friday presented six more witnesses against Napoles, who will testify that they were “not aware their municipality was chosen or was made to appear as one of the recipients of the livelihood projects for marginal farmers” allegedly funded by Enrile’s pork barrel allocation.
Among those who submitted their judicial affidavits were incumbent Mayor Eldred Tumbokon of Umingan, Pangasinan province; Mayor Ricardo Revita of Rosales, Pangasinan, and former Mayor Bartolome Ramos of Sta. Maria, Bulacan province.
Municipal agriculturists Imelda Eugenio, Rodolfo Mendoza and Francisco Collado also submitted their sworn affidavits.
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