MANILA (Mabuhay) – The trial of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada’s cases in connection with the pork barrel scam is not set to commence anytime soon.
At the scheduled pre-trial of his graft case before the Sandiganbayan Fifth Division Monday morning, the prosecution and the defense admitted that they were not yet done with the marking of voluminous documentary evidence that they intend to present during the trial proper of the case.
Under the rules of criminal procedure, only the pre-marked evidence and list of witnesses can be presented during the trial proper of the case.
This prompted Fifth Division chairman Associate Justice Roland Jurado to order the setting of a weekly preliminary conference to enable both camps to finish marking their exhibits.
The whole day preliminary conference was set every Tuesday starting March 22 until June 7.
The pre-trial was set tentatively on June 13.
Both camps committed to be present in all the preliminary conference dates.
During a pre-trial proceeding, the prosecution and the defense are expected to submit the final list of their witnesses and evidence to be presented during the trial proper. Some issues and procedures for the conduct of an orderly trial are also expected to be discussed.
Lanee David, lawyer of the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, admitted that it might take longer than three months before the trial of the case can commence.
“Sa part ng kliyente namin, nakahanda na lahat ng ebidensya namin, though hindi pa natin mina-mark. Mukhang matatagalan pa talaga before tayo makapagstart ng trial, dahil mismong ang prosecution hindi pa tapos with [the marking of] their own exhibits,” David said.
David pointed out that their camp would have to wait for the prosecution team to finish the marking of its exhibits in order for the defense’ camp to determine the best counter-evidence to present.
Estrada is facing plunder and 11 counts of graft for allegedly pocketing P183.793-million worth of kickbacks by allocating his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) allegedly owned by Napoles.
Estrada is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City while Napoles is detained at the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City.
In January of this year, the Fifth Division denied Estrada and Napoles’ petition for bail for the plunder case citing the strong evidence presented by the prosecution in the course of more than a year of bail proceedings.
The Fifth Division, however, has yet to set a pretrial date for the plunder case because it needs to resolve Estrada and Napoles’ motions for reconsideration.
The plunder and graft cases were filed in June 2014 by the Office of the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan against Napoles and Senators Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in connection with the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
Charged with the three senators were their former chiefs of staff and several government officials. (MNS)