Neri asks SC to stop anti-graft court from making him testify vs Arroyo
MANILA, Philippines — Former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Romulo Neri has asked the Supreme Court to stop the Sandiganbayan from forcing him to testify in the graft cases against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In a joint petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus, a copy of which was furnished the anti-graft court’s Fourth Division, Neri, through counsel, said the Fourth Division’s s order for him to testify against his former boss would incriminate him.
Neri urged the high court to issue a temporary restraining order holding in abeyance the validity of the orders dated April 10, 2013 denying the quashing of the subpoena, and related orders denying his pleas for reconsideration, as well as temporarily prohibiting the Sandiganbayan from doing acts or issuing any orders pending the hearing of the application for preliminary injunction.
After due proceedings by the high tribunal, Neri asked that the TRO be converted into a writ of preliminary prohibitory injunction against justices of the Fourth Division and ordered them to permanently desist from issuing any subpoena to the petitioner to force him to testify in Arroyo’s cases.
Neri has been charged before the Fifth Division while his former boss has been charged before the Fourth Division in connection with the botched and allegedly graft-ridden $329-million National Broadband Network project the Arroyo administration entered into with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. in 2007.
In August this year, Neri was subpoenaed by the Fourth Division as the “star witness” for the prosecution for the three criminal cases filed against Arroyo.
In his petition, Neri, through counsel, said the testimony that he would give at the trial of the cases against Arroyo would be at the same time incriminatory to himself because he has also been accused in Criminal Case No. SB-10-CRM-0099 in another division.
Worse, any testimony which he would give might or would be used against him by the prosecution in his own case, he also said.
“So even if CC No. SB-10-CRM-0099 is pending before another division of the Sandiganbayan, the same evil exists here or the same abhorrent effect is present for petitioner will effectively be testifying against himself,” the petition said.
“Is the Sandiganbayan now recreating the past abuses against an accused’s constitutional right not to be compelled to be a witness against himself with all its vividness and all its horrors?” he further said.
The petition hit the Office of the Special Prosecutor of the Office of the Ombudsman which has presented only six witnesses against Neri and which has sought his testimony as a “star witness.”
“Obviously, what the prosecution cannot do directly, it cannot now do indirectly,” it said.
The petition said the joint special civil action for the extraordinary writs of Certiorari, Prohibition and Mandamus as provided under the Revised Penal Code will correct the orders denying the quashal of the subpoena and the related orders, denial of the pleas for reconsideration of the respondent Sandiganbayan.
It said these actions were issued “without and in excess of its jurisdiction or with grave abuse of discretion.”
It further said that the Sandiganbayan gravely erred in refusing to quash its subpoena when the petitioner has properly invoked his constitutional right to remain silent as an accused.
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