• ‘Jose Velarde’ falls ill, bagman missing

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    JUST where is Yolanda Ricaforte, supposedly the jueteng bagman of Jose Velarde? Apparently, even the Sandiganbayan is clueless of her whereabouts, but it was confirmed that she is not in the country.

    Her lawyer, Pacifico Agabin, admitted in writing that his client is nowhere in the Philippines two days before her scheduled arraignment for the plunder case that once convicted former president and Manila Mayor-elect Joseph Estrada.

    According to the Sandiganbayan Special Division, nothing in the case record of Criminal Case 26558 would show that she was in the country ever since the preliminary investigation against Estrada was conducted.

    Ricaforte is allegedly the payola bagman of the former leader. She asked the case to be returned to the Ombudsman after the anti-graft court found that her preliminary investigation was not fully accorded.

    In May 2012, the Sandigan­bayan, voting 4-1, sided her and remanded the plunder case of Ricaforte back to the Office of the Ombudsman for a new investigation.

    Her warrant of arrest was also lifted in the same May ruling.

    Sandiganbayan staff said that Ricaforte is only filing her pleading through Agabin, but was not seen ever since the plunder case against her was revived.

    “The undersigned counsel for Ricaforte manifests to the [Sandiganbayan] that the accused has not come back to the Philippines to stand arraignment,” Agabin said.

    He did not though categorically ask the court to reset the arraignment scheduled tomorrow.

    Also, Agabin also asked for the arraignment of Ricaforte’s co-accused, Jaime Dichaves, to be moved to a later date after the alleged “Jose Velarde” suffered from hypertension.

    Dichaves’ physician, Dr. Emma­nuel Rebollido of San Juan Medical Center, advised the patient to “avoid physical and emotional stressors.”

    “Any undue emotional stress on his part is extremely hazardous to his heart condition,” Agabin wrote in the pleading.

    Unlike Ricaforte, Dichaves categorically asked the anti-graft court to move his arraignment on a later date.

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