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Last-minute travel plea irks court

/ 12:21 AM October 14, 2016

The Sandiganbayan reprimanded the camp of Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday for filing a rush travel request just days before he is to join President Duterte’s state visit to China.

Gatchalian’s “very urgent motion” was filed in the antigraft court’s Fourth Division only on Wednesday, on the eve of a scheduled hearing on Thursday. This gave both the prosecution and the justices barely enough time to tackle his request to be allowed to leave the country for Brunei and China on Sunday.

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This also violated the rule that a defendant must file an urgent motion at least three days ahead of a scheduled hearing, the court noted.

Gatchalian sought the court’s understanding, saying that he only learned of the invitation early this week.

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But Justice Jose R. Hernandez, the division chair, said the senator would not get special treatment.

“I’ve been here more than 15 years, and I tell you this has never happened,” Hernandez said. “To be candid, we don’t want to be accused of giving preference to the accused. That’s the worst thing that could happen to the judiciary.”

He pointed out that Gatchalian’s brother and co-accused, Valenzuela City 1st District Rep. Wesley Gatchalian, was able to get authorization from the House Speaker last week.

The two, along with another brother and their parents, face graft charges over the allegedly anomalous sale of an insolvent bank the family owned to the Local Water Utilities Administration for P80 million.

The court gave Gatchalian until Thursday morning to give a compelling reason to grant his motion, while prosecutors were given the afternoon to file an opposition.

Gatchalian said he would drop his original plan to join President Duterte in Brunei and instead head directly to Beijing on Oct. 18.

According to his tentative itinerary, Gatchalian will attend a flurry of meetings and a fellowship night on the 19th. The next day, a welcome ceremony is scheduled, followed by the signing of “various memoranda of understanding.”

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TAGS: Philippine news updates, Rodrigo Duterte, Sandiganbayan, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian
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