Revilla wants to stop presentation of witnesses for alleged ghost projects
MANILA, Philippines – Veteran lawyer Estelito Mendoza wants anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to terminate the presentation of evidence relating to the supposed beneficiaries of former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr's alleged ghost projects.
In a motion submitted to the Sandiganbayan 1st Division last Monday, August 14, Mendoza asked the court to instead direct the prosecution to move on to other evidence and witnesses, ones which are "essential" to Revilla's plunder case in the pork barrel scam.
Aside from Mendoza's consistent stance that supposed ghost project beneficiaries do not tie Revilla to the crime of plunder, the former solicitor general also criticized the instances that the prosecution's witnesses did not show up in court. (READ: Bong Revilla lawyer: If offense proves true, it's bribery not plunder)
What are supposed to be all-day hearings every Thursday sometimes do not continue until the afternoon because there are no more witnesses to take the stand.
"We are cooperating [to] the best of our ability but some of them come from Mindanao, there are limitations in reality," said lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio.
Toribio appealed to the justices during the hearing on Thursday, August 17, that they be given the chance to finish presenting all 48 of their witnesses.
In his usual manner, Mendoza stood in court to dress down the prosecution. He said: "The trouble with the prosecution is that they want to use a shotgun approach. You're using a shotgun and hoping one pellet will hit the accused, when you must hit directly."
In earlier hearings, Mendoza had poked fun at the prosecution, saying their continuous presentation of alleged beneficiaries only help the case for the defense.
Toribio answered back: "I'm perplexed. They said we are helping them but now they want to stop us. Let us present our evidence. If we are helping them, then the defense should be thankful!"
Mendoza had originally wanted that the witnesses no longer be presented on Thursday, but Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz denied this request.
Nonetheless, Dela Cruz issued a stern reminder to the prosecution: "Be more responsible, use the morning and afternoon sessions. See to it that you'll have witnesses in the morning and afternoon."
Toribio said that after the beneficiaries, they will present bank executives and tellers pertaining to the accounts of Revilla and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Under the Speedy Trial Act, a trial should be finished within 180 days. This means the Revilla trial – which started on June 22 – should be done by December.
Dela Cruz asked the defense camp if they want to have hearings every day, instead of only every Thursday, but the defense lawyers said they wouldn't be able to keep up with such a schedule.
Revilla has been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame for 3 years. He is accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks from his pork barrel through Napoles-run NGOs.
In his last hearing, Revilla expressed confidence in his team's legal strategy and said he expects to be free soon. – Rappler.com