'Multiple divisions could harm gov't in PDAF case'
MANILA, Philippines – With three Philippine senators now charged for pocketing kickbacks derived from their pork barrel fund, the Sandiganbayan will now be the main venue for the pork barrel scam plunder cases.
But creating two or more special divisions to handle the case could do more harm than good to the prosecution's case, according to Cavite Rep Elpidio Barzaga.
The trial lawyer and former House prosecutor in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona noted the possibility of contradictory rulings and inconsistencies in the testimonies of government witnesses who will be forced to take the stand repeatedly.
Barzaga warned that having more than one court conducting simultaneous hearings on the plunder cases could take a toll on the resources of the Office of the Special Prosecutor and raise complications, like the possibility of a difference in rulings that directly contradict each other.
"It is even possible that in one court, it is a judgment of conviction and a judgment of acquittal in the other court," the lawmaker added.
Barzaga said the divisions could have different rulings on issues like the admissibility of evidence and whether to grant house arrest or hospital arrests for an accused who is sick.
He said prosecutors would be in a better position to present a more solid case by having only one special division handle the trial, similar to the plunder case of former President Joseph Estrada
Barzaga added, "To avoid these possibilities of different rulings and in order not to unduly confuse the public in the event of conflicting orders from two special courts, it would be more prudent to have one instead of two special courts."
On Friday, June 6, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. were charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing millions of pesos from their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Also facing plunder charges are alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles, her employee John Raymund de Asis, her nephew John Ronald Lim, and the three senators' staff members: Gigi Reyes, Pauline Labayen and Richard Cambe.
On the same day, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales wrote to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to create at least two special divisions of the Sandiganbayan to exclusively conduct trial on the cases citing the complexities of the issues and the many accused.
But Barzaga said having multiple divisions would mean state witnesses will be forced to testify several times, giving rise to the possibility of inconsistencies that the defense can exploit.
He said, "It's a very real danger. An experienced trial lawyer will use the inconsistent statements to impeach the credibility of the witness or the accused. It is based on the theory that, if there are two statements which are opposed to one another, then one must be true and the other is false." - Rappler.com
"When a witness or accused makes two different statements, he is lying in regard to the false statement and therefore he did not comply with his oath to tell the (whole) truth," he added.
The Sandiganbayan Legal Section will come up with a recommendation on whether to hand the case to only one division or if they will be raffled to different divisions. – Rappler.com