Conclusion of graft trial delayed as Imelda camp fails to show up
MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has postponed to Feb. 16 the presentation of the last piece of evidence in the 25-year old-graft case against former First Lady Imelda Marcos.
This came after defense lawyer Robert A.C. Sison failed to show up for the scheduled hearing on Tuesday. The Fifth Division, in open court, ordered him to explain within five days why he should not be cited in contempt.
Otherwise, Sison’s failure to appear will be treated as a waiver of his right to present the defense’s sole evidence: the transcript of his cross-examination of the late Assistant Solicitor General Cesario del Rosario on Nov. 28, 2006.
He was supposed to present two stenographers from Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 26 to confirm the transcript of the hearing on the unsuccessful case against Marcos for “dollar-salting,” or taking money out of the country without Central Bank approval.
Assistant Special Prosecutor Ryan Rey Quilala told the court that the defense has not furnished the prosecution a verified copy of the document mentioned in the exchange.
In 2006, Del Rosario testified that he briefed Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio—then the chief presidential legal counsel of President Fidel Ramos—on the secret deposits of the Marcoses in Switzerland.
The briefing document apparently mentioned Del Rosario’s “heart-to-heart talk” with Zurich District Attorney Peter Cosandey, in which the Swiss admitted: “I will be very frank with you. It will take you 150 years and still, you have no assurance that your government would get the said assets.”
Quilala told the court that the prosecution “cannot cross-examine” on that statement since they have not been given a copy of Del Rosario’s memorandum.
The Sandiganbayan criminal cases have crept slowly since they were filed from 1991 to 1995. (Special Prosecution Officer Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos, who filed the 1991 charges, would even finish a 13-year stint as Sandiganbayan justice in July without seeing the conclusion of Marcos’ trial.)
Marcos, known for living lavishly in an impoverished dictatorship, was accused of violating Section 3(h) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which bars public officials from having financial interest in transactions prohibited by the Constitution.
While serving as a member of the interim Batasang Pambansa and later the Minister of Human Settlements, she was allegedly involved in several foundations and business establishments set up to accumulate ill-gotten wealth, some of which was stowed away in Swiss bank accounts.
The Duterte administration in November allowed the sneak burial of the remains of her husband, dictator Ferdinand Marcos, at Libingan ng mga Bayani. SFM