Justice scolds Jinggoy Estrada for delaying plunder trial
A Sandiganbayan justice on Monday scolded the lawyers of detained former senator Jinggoy Estrada for delaying his plunder trial over the alleged pork barrel scam.
Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, who chairs the anti-graft court Fifth Division hearing the case, scolded Estrada’s lawyers after they submitted a “very late motion” questioning the draft pre-trial order, which Estrada refused to sign.
The first day of trial was cancelled anew pending the resolution of Estrada’s motion, which for Justice Lagos was obviously meant to delay the proceedings.
In his six-page motion, Estrada urged the court to separate stipulations on the pre-trial order which he has not yet agreed on. He also wanted to exclude from the exhibits the prosecution evidence that contain “misleading” description.
For one, Estrada wanted removed from the pre-trial order a description saying some documents were signed by Estrada’s deputy chief of staff Pauline Labayen “as part of Sen. Estrada’s office.” Labayen is Estrada’s accused agent who is at large for plunder.
“It shows that you (just want) the initial trial not to start. If you believe you have a point, you should’ve done that two weeks ago… How do you think the court will take it?” Lagos said, noting that he just read the motion today.
“Their client is detained. If they just want to prolong everything, it’s okay with us… Set tayo ng set ayaw n’yo namang matuloy. Bahala kayo,” he added.
Even Associate Justice Maria Theresa Mendoza-Arcega fumed at the defense for keeping on delaying the proceedings: “Next time, we do not start Monday morning with bickering.”
This as Estrada’s lawyer Paul Mar Arias and Office of the Special Prosecutor Director Ma. Christina Marallag-Batacan quarreled about the pre-trial order.
Arias accused the prosecution of not providing the defense with authentic copies of the exhibits, to which Batacan refuted, accusing Arias of not even attending the preliminary conferences.
“We furnished them copies,” Batacan said, to which Arias retorted: “That’s not true! We were merely given a list.”
“It’s procedure. How can they dispute that?” Batacan replied in frustration, slamming Arias for having an “attitude.”
“I think I have attended more than Atty. Batacan” was Arias’ snide response.
Justice Lagos intervened and told Arias to “temper down.” But Arias said he was merely “empathic.”
“Don’t be so hot-headed,” a frowning Lagos told the lawyer.
In an interview with reporters after the hearing, Estrada denied delaying his trial, explaining: “As far as we are concerned, we are not delaying the hearing, because I am in detention for already more than three years, Kung ako ang masusunod, gusto ko nang mag-start yung hearing para that will give me a chance to prove that I am innocent of all charges leveled against me.”
The former senator was supposed to face his first day of trial for plunder on Monday, three years since charges were filed against him.
The court set the first day of trial Monday following the termination of the pre-trial proceedings after both prosecution and defense panels agreed that the list of documentary evidence is faithful reproductions of originals.
The pre-trial order according to the rules of court would limit the issues to be taken up during the trial proper.
But the defense panel refused to sign the draft pre-trial order.
Estrada faces a plunder trial for allegedly receiving P183 million kickbacks from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), which was allegedly spent in ghost projects of bogus foundations of Janet Lim Napoles.
He was denied bail and remains in police custody with co-accused Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center. Revilla’s plunder trial has also begun.
Another accused, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, has been allowed bail by the Supreme Court for humanitarian considerations.
Estrada is also accused of 11 counts of graft for violating Section 3(e) of the anti-graft law for allegedly causing injury to government and giving undue preference to Napoles’ bogus foundations to implement his ghost pork barrel projects.
The former senators’ pork barrel scam charges were filed in June 2014. CBB/rga
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