Sandiganbayan reminds Vitangcol camp, prosecution: Respect gag order
MANILA, Philippines — Sandiganbayan has reminded both the counsel of former Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol III and the prosecution to respect the gag order in place, which prevents both camps from discussing the cases’ merits.
Vitangcol and five others were charged for graft and for violating laws on procurement when they tapped an unqualified company to maintain MRT-3 for a $1.5 million contract in 2012.
He filed a motion in November 2018, asking that the anti-graft court admonish the prosecution for providing two news organizations with information in 2016 despite the order.
“Wherefore, premises considered, the Manifestation of grave concern with Motion dated November 15, 2018 filed by accused Al Sanchez Vitangcol Ill, through counsel, is merely noted. The prayer integrated therein is, however, denied for lack of merit,” the resolution authored dated last March 12 said.
“Nevertheless, the parties are hereby reminded of the Gag Order dated April 19, 2016, principally directing them to refrain from discussing the merit of these cases and to issue any press releases regarding the same,” it added.
The gag order was issued by the court last April 19, 2016 — at the height of the campaign period for the 2016 Presidential Elections — to stop former Transportation and Interior Secretary and then-presidential candidate Mar Roxas II from talking about the case.
Other presidential candidates were also disallowed from discussing the cases’ matters.
Vitangcol claimed that the prosecution’s supposed leakage of information was meant to sway public opinion against him.
“Accused Vitangcol manifested that the prosecution was resorting to the bar of public opinion to sway their way towards his conviction […] He claims that the prosecution, in releasing these documents to the media to gain mileage in their case against the accused, is now a matter of grave concern for him,” the court relayed.
The court said that the news articles presented as pieces of evidence showed that references were made to pleadings by both parties in court. However, it did not indicate that the information was given by any member of the prosecution, the Office of the Ombudsman, or the Office of the Special Prosecutor.
“A cursory reading of the Annexes will reveal that they are news reports making reference to pleadings filed by both parties before this Court. There does not appear to be a clear and specific indication that their sources were from any member of the prosecution panel,” the resolution read.
“Neither does it show that the information in the Annexes came from the Office of the Ombudsman or the Office of the Special Prosecutor. Clearly, the allegations are by themselves bare and without any evidentiary support,” it added.
In 2016, the Ombudsman said Vitangcol conspired with and gave undue preference to Philippine Trans Rail Management and Services Corp. (PH Trams), aside from intentionally concealing that one of the firm’s executives was his wife’s uncle. /je
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.