Sandiganbayan grants ex-MRT GM’s plea to contest evidence in graft cases
MANILA, Philippines — The Sandiganbayan has allowed former Manila Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) General Manager Al Vitangcol to contest the evidence in graft cases filed against him for the alleged extortion try on a Czech company.
In a decision by the Sixth Division last May 17, two separate motions filed by Vitangcol and his co-accused Wilson de Vera for leave of court to file demurrers to evidence were granted.
When a court grants an accused’s motion to file a demurrer, he or she can contest the prosecution’s evidence and seek the outright dismissal of the case.
The defense said the prosecution has failed to prove that Vitangcol and De Vera violated Section 3 of R.A. 3019 or the Anti Graft and Corrupt Practices over a supposed attempt to extort money from Czech firm Inekon.
The two were accused of demanding $30 million from Inekon Group CEO and chair Josef Husek in exchange for a P3.7-billion contract to supply 48 coaches to the MRT-3.
The prosecution, however, countered that the absence of direct evidence does not mean the case’s dismissal.
It insisted that the testimonies of Husek and former Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar — whose residence in the country was the alleged meeting place of the accused and Husek — was enough to convict Vitangcol and De Vera.
“The circumstantial evidence presented and admitted by the Honorable Court sufficiently established the existence of the crimes charged and that the accused is probably guilty thereof,” the prosecution claimed.
“Without any evidence of denial coming from the accused, the findings of Atty. Bersoña and the sworn statements of Ant. Rychtar and Mr. Husek could well nigh be deemed as amply supported in material points by other documents offered, and therefore sufficient to constitute a prima fade case against the accused,” it added.
But the anti-graft court said the motions were granted based on the belief that the defense’s intention was not to stale the proceedings.
“To the mind of this Court, the motions for leave to file demurrer, in this case, were filed not for the purpose of delaying the proceedings but appears to be based on accused’s sincere belief that the prosecution’s evidence failed to prove beyond reasonable doubt that they are guilty,” the Sandiganbayan’s Sixth Division said.
De Vera is given ten calendar days to file his demurrer while Vitangcol, who attached his demurrer to the motion, is also given ten days to make additions or revise his objection.
Meanwhile, the prosecution can comment or oppose within ten days after the receipt of the documents. (Editor: Eden Estopace)
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