Revilla again delays trial at Sandiganbayan
MANILA, Philippines – Former senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr has managed to delay for 5 weeks now the presentation of evidence in his pork barrel scam plunder case.
On Tuesday, March 6, Revilla succeeded in delaying the presentation of evidence in his case to March 20.
Revilla had filed a motion to cancel hearings before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan's First Division citing, among others, the heated February 27 en banc meeting of the Supreme Court (SC) where justices pressured Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to go on leave.
The Revilla team claimed that the Sereno issue had bumped off its petition from the agenda.
This is interesting because Revilla’s lawyer, Estelito Mendoza, knew the exact date that his client’s petition was on the agenda of the en banc, though the agenda is supposedly confidential.
Mendoza wrote in his motion that Revilla's petition was supposed to be on the February 27 agenda of the en banc. All items on agenda on February 27 were moved to Tuesday, March 6, but the petition was not among the items announced by SC Spokesman Theodore Te on Tuesday afternoon.
“In my 60 years of experience as a lawyer, this is the first time that the court is in a state of paralysis, everybody is preoccupied with the Chief Justice. That is beyond our control,” Mendoza told the court.
But the SC en banc did not only act on a Sereno petition on Tuesday, it also decided to set for oral arguments a petition on same-sex marriage.
Scheduling the next hearing to March 20 gives Revilla more than a week to secure a temporary restraining order from the High Court, where he has a pending holistic petition seeking a bail grant, and the dismissal of his entire case.
Why move to March 20?
Mendoza reiterated that Revilla's detention of 1,356 days is unconstitutional. Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg reminded him that the prolonged detention time was due to the trial not being able to move forward.
The First Division on Tuesday did not grant or junk Revilla’s motion to cancel hearings, but it reset the next presentation to March 20.
Econg was adamant that Rule 65 of the Rules of Court states that the petition at the SC “shall not interrupt the course off the principal case unless a TRO or a writ of preliminary injunction has been issued.”
But curiously, the court opted to go by its January resolution where it said that if Revilla doesn’t start presenting their evidence, co-accused Richard Cambe should, followed by then alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Cambe told the court on Tuesday that he did not receive any notice that it would be his turn during that hearing. Cambe is his own lawyer and notices are sent to his detention cell at Camp Crame.
Napoles’ lawyer said they were ready to present as witnesses stenographers of the Sandiganbayan to prove that the witnesses presented by the prosecution do not tie Napoles to the crime of plunder.
Econg said that the stenographers are irrelevant as witnesses.
Because Napoles’ lawyer wasn’t ready with other witnesses, the court gave them until March 20.
Econg told Mendoza that he got the extension he wanted and said in jest, “Sinasabi na lang natin na kasalanan ni Napoles (Let’s just say it’s Napoles’ fault).”
Econg asked Mendoza, "If Napoles will not be ready, will you be ready on March 20?"
Mendoza said he could not promise this, prompting prosecutor Mariter Delfin Santos to stand up and tell the court, “They are wasting the time of the court, and the time of the prosecution as well."
Hearing this, Revilla's lawyers were seen grinning in their seats.
Prosecutors rested their case as early as October last year, and the defense was directed to start presenting evidence on January 25.
What is Mendoza buying time for? (READ: How Revilla's team is defending him in his plunder trial) – Rappler.com