Prosecutors were unable to present a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) in Monday’s hearing on Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada’s bail petition before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division because his camp had filed a request to exclude the report from the proceedings.
The AMLC’s bank inquiry report pertained to bank transactions related to Estrada’s alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Last Friday, Estrada’s camp filed an urgent motion that sought to suppress or exclude the bank inquiry report and the testimony of the AMLC witness on the report.
In Monday morning’s bail hearing, the court heard the motion and gave the prosecution three days to file its comment on it and the AMLC, five days.
Prosecutor Jun dela Cruz said the motion was intended to “deceive the prosecution” and that it violated the three-day notice rule.
The rule provides that motions and their notice of hearing shall be served in such a manner as to ensure that the other party receives he motions at least three days before the hearing date, unless the court for good cause sets the hearing on shorter notice.
“This is meant obviously to delay the proceedings,” Prosecutor Ma. Christina Marallag-Batacan said.
But the court said the request may be heard because it was an urgent motion.
Later on, when the prosecution said it was asking for reconsiderstion of its order, Fifth Division Chairman Roland Jurado said, “You are asking for reconsideration? Denied! Postpone the proceedings.”
While the court has to resolve the pending motion first, no other witness was available, prompting the defense to ask the prosecution why.
Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo then told both the prosecution and defense panels, “Let us prevent all this animosity.”
Jurado recalled reminding the prosecution to be ready with at least three witnesses in the previous bail hearing.
“That was the agreement. You must be ready with three witnesses,” he said, reminding them again to prepare at least three witnesses.
After the hearing, Estrada was asked if he filed the motion to suppress out of fear.
“Wala akong kinakatakutan, nilalabag nila ang aking karapatan [I don’t fear anything, they violated my right],” he told reporters, citing due process.
The urgent motion, filed at 4:35 p.m. last Friday at closing hours, argued that the AMLC report is supposed to be strictly confidential.
But Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, apart of the prosecution panel, told reporters in a separate interview, “All government officials have a waiver in favor of the Ombudsman to examine our bank accounts.”
A sample Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, he said, has a portion where they waive confidentiality of bank deposits.
Estrada said he is ready to face the AMLC witness.
“Sabi ko nga, ilabas na lahat ng malalaking witnesses nila, si Benhur Luy, Ruby Tuason, kung sino sino pa, para matapos na ito for the court to decide if evidence against me is strong [As I said before, they should present all their star witnesses, Benhur Luy, Ruby Tuason and others, so the court can already decide if evidence against me is strong],” he said.
When asked why no other witness was prepared, Justiniano said the one from AMLC already started testifying in the previous hearing and they see no reason to stop his testimony.
The witness, AMLC Bank Officer IV Orlando Negradas Jr., was presented last January 12.
The defense objected before direct examination began, saying they were not furnished a copy of the AMLC report, which was then only identified in the hearing as its contents were subjected first to marking.