Judge in pork trial misses ‘teleserye’
He too had been losing sleep—and missing his favorite evening teleserye to boot.
So countered Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Samuel Martires of the antigraft court’s Third Division when a lawyer for defendant Janet Lim-Napoles Thursday complained of the inconveniences his client had to endure to attend the morning hearings on the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Lawyer Stephen David said the detained businesswoman had been forced to wake up as early as 2 a.m. to attend the twice-a-week hearings that started on Wednesday.
Napoles, who allegedly masterminded the elaborate scheme to funnel the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to her fake foundations, had previously asked the court to let her skip the proceedings, a request that was turned down twice.
“Do you think we’re enjoying this?” Martires asked David, starting off a 30-minute litany that ended in a virtual lecture on how corruption in the bureaucracy had led to other social ills.
‘Pangako Sa ’Yo’
“We’re hearing cases in the morning and afternoon. I also wake up at 4 a.m. to prepare,” the judge said.
“That’s why I have to sleep early and because of that, I have not been able to watch ‘Pangako Sa ’Yo’ and ‘On The Wings of Love,’” he said, setting off chuckles inside the courtroom.
“That’s why (I’ve managed) to catch only ‘Ang Probinsyano,’” Martires added.
The voluble magistrate was referring to the top-rating television dramas aired nightly over ABS-CBN that star some of the country’s most popular show biz love teams.
The court’s hectic schedule had also forced him to skip his regular exercise, the 67-year-old justice said, adding that the court had been hearing more than 900 graft and corruption cases.
“In fact, one of the lady reporters (said they missed) seeing me in my jogging pants in the afternoon (after the hearings),” Martires said.
Martires, Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Sarah Jane Fernandez compose the Third Division of the special court that had been assigned to hear the plunder case and 25 counts of graft against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
But the court has so far initiated only the trial of the plunder case against Napoles and Enrile’s former chief of staff, lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, as the senator managed to convince the Supreme Court to grant him bail for humanitarian reasons.
Enrile, Napoles and Reyes were indicted for allegedly conspiring with each other to embezzle P172-million of Enrile’s pork barrel, an accusation they had repeatedly denied.
The high court also approved the 91-year-old lawmaker’s motion seeking a bill of particulars directing prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman to cite the specific evidence and allegations against him in relation to the pork scam.
Martires’ comments provided some comic relief to the otherwise dreary court proceedings, which continued with the testimony of witness Marina Sula, one of Napoles’ former employees who blew the whistle on her.
But before Sula was called to the witness stand, Tang let off some steam as she berated David for accusing the court of showing “special interest” in speeding up the trial.
In an interview with reporters on Wednesday, Napoles’ lawyer assailed the justices for requiring his client to be present at the hearings that the court had set from 8:30 a.m. to 12 noon every Wednesday and Thursday.
Tang reminded David that he and his client did not challenge the court’s two previous rulings which required Napoles’ presence during the trial.
She also noted that it was Napoles’ counsels themselves who told the court in a previous manifestation that it would be “better” for Napoles to attend her trial as it would give her an opportunity to assist her lawyers.
“This court has every right to require an accused to be present, isn’t it counsel?” a visibly irate Tang asked David.
Barred from answering back, the lawyer was also asked to be “more responsible with (his) statements to media.”