The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division on Monday canceled the scheduled trial of the plunder case filed against former senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and several other individuals in connection with the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.
The cancellation came after Estrada’s camp filed a motion and reply on Friday afternoon (received by the court’s Fifth Division on Monday) regarding issues concerning the draft pre-trial order.
Associate Justice Rafael Lagos, who leads the court’s Fifth Division, said during the hearing that “[i]t shows you’re just trying to [have]the initial trial not start,” adding that the defense should have filed the same at least two weeks before if they really believe that they have a point.
One of Estrada’s lawyers, Paul Mar Arias, apologized for the delay.
Earlier in the hearing, the prosecution and the defense argued over a number of issues.
Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega later remarked, “Next time, we do not start Monday mornings with bickering.”
Arias then said they were forced to, prompting Associate Justice Reynaldo Cruz to point out that “the prosecution has not even started speaking.”
The court will set the trial date when the parties have signed the pre-trial order, which lists the number of hearing dates, the documentary evidence and witnesses to be presented, and the issues to be resolved during trial.
“Well, as far as we are concerned, we are not delaying the hearing because I am in detention for already more than three years… [I really want] the hearing [to start], for that will give me a chance to prove that I am innocent of all charges leveled against me but unfortunately, [the prosecution]has been submitting documents which are not originals. So we really have no fault there. It is all the prosecution’s fault,” Estrada said.
In the motion and reply, Estrada’s camp sought the separation of the parties’ agreements and stipulations from the pre-trial order.
The defense argued that there is no need to include proposals for stipulation in the pretrial order and that such proposals on which there is no agreement do not need to be reduced in writing.
Estrada is one of three former senators namely, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile, who were charged in 2014 along with Janet Lim-Napoles and several others in connection with the PDAF scam.
Estrada and Revilla are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame in Quezon City, while Enrile is out on bail after the Supreme Court granted his bail petition on humanitarian grounds.
Napoles is detained at a Bureau of Jail Management and Penology facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Also on Monday, Estrada asked the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division to let him undergo a medical examination in a hospital in San Juan City.
In a motion, the defense asked the court “[t]o grant accused a medical pass of two  days to undergo videocolonoscopy at Cardinal Santos Medical Center as soon as possible” and that “the usual escort and security conditions will be at accused’s expense.”
According to the motion, Estrada was examined by Dr. Regina Bagsic at his place of detention on July 12 and he underwent blood test.
“Upon examination, accused was noted to have elevated levels of CEA [carcinoembryonic antigen]and was advised to undergo videocolonoscopy at the soonest possible time,” the defense said.
“If allowed to undergo videocolonoscopy, the procedure itself may take 30 to 60 minutes. However, there is need for one-day preparation before the procedure is done. After the procedure, it may or may not require 24 hours’ observation depending on any diagnostic or therapeutic interventions needed to be done,” it added. REINA TOLENTINO