’Dilatory tactics’ have stalled plunder trial of 3 senators for 3 years
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales lamented on Tuesday the delay in the pork barrel scam trial of the three former senators who had been charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan three years ago, in June 2014, but whose trial had not yet started since then.
In a news conference, Morales said the plunder and graft cases of former senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile had not yet gone to trial because of the delaying tactics of the accused.
“After about three years, the trial has not even started moving,” Morales said. “Hindi pa ba natin masasabing inordinate delay yan? Tatlong taon na yan ha (Can we not already say that is already inordinate delay? It’s been three years),.”
For his part, acting special prosecutor Omar Sagadal said: “The Sandiganbayan has been generally fair. But there are really numerous dilatory tactics, and the Sandiganbayan has no choice but to resolve all these incidents. Inevitably, the defense takes advantage because of the delay… A very good strategy in winning a case is to delay it.”
So many motions
Morales said the defense panels’ filed several motions – even though these were essentially the same – obviously intended to unduly delay the proceedings.
“There are so many motions,” Morales said. “If the motions were not that many, probably we could have started trying the case.”
“There are some instances they try to vary the title of the motion, but the same animal. It’s part of dilatory tactics,” she added.
Morales acknowledged though that part of the delay was because prosecution needed to mark voluminous documents for the trial proper.
“But we can’t do anything if there are many documentary evidence,” Morales said, adding that parties should stipulate the facts of the case to speed up proceedings.
One postponement after another
Revilla’s plunder trial has been postponed five times due to the failure of both the prosecution and defense to finish the marking and comparison of documentary exhibits.
Revilla’s trial was initially set on Jan. 12, 2017, at the Sandiganbayan First Division. But it has been repeatedly canceled and reset on Feb. 9, Feb. 23, March 30, April 20, and recently, on June 1.
Revilla is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in the scheme of using the pork barrel fund in ghost projects allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles
Meanwhile, after a pre-trial that took over a year, Estrada’s plunder trial has finally been scheduled for June 19 at the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division.
Estrada is accused of receiving P183 million kickbacks from his ghost PDAF projects.
As to the plunder case of Enrile, the Sandiganbayan Third Division has just affirmed its finding of probable cause when it junked Enrile’s motion to dismiss. His case has been stalled due to his motion for bill of particulars to the Supreme Court, which granted his request.
Enrile’s graft cases, meanwhile, have reached the pre-trial stage, which is scheduled for June 26. Enrile is accused of receiving P172.8 million in kickbacks from Napoles.
READ: Enrile’s bid to quash plunder rap denied | Enrile’s pre-trial in pork barrel graft cases reset to 2017
Both Estrada and Revilla were denied bail. On the other hand, Enrile was allowed to post bail by the Supreme Court on humanitarian grounds.
Morales said the Office of the Ombudsman was still aiming to close its investigation on the 240 lawmakers embroiled in a special audit on alleged PDAf misuse by the end of 2017.
Of the 240 implicated lawmakers in the special audit, she said her office had so far filed charges against 50 lawmakers.
Morales said the list of lawmakers would be further trimmed down because the investigators of the Office of the Ombudsman ruled out the use of their PDAF on ghost projects. /atm
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