New witness in PCSO plunder case barred

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The Sandiganbayan’s First Division barred the prosecution from presenting their new witness in connection with the P366-million Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund misuse, where Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Pampanga is accused of plunder.

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The prosecution was not able to produce their intended witness, a former ranking official of the PCSO during Arroyo’s presidency, in yesterday morning’s hearing.

For lack of witness, the Court cancelled yesterday’s agenda and will not allow the supposed new witness to testify since he is not on the witness list.

In the previous hearing, incumbent PCSO Corporate Secretary Ramon Rodrigo took the witness stand for the prosecution and said that he had no personal knowledge of the approval and disbursement of the intelligence and confidential funds.

The defense was unanimous in its objection against producing former PCSO Corporate Secretary lawyer Ronaldo Reyes as witness, saying that he cannot be named witness because he was simply mentioned by the previous witness.

“This is no time for a rebuttal,” the defense argued, “Atty. Reyes’ testimony will serve no purpose…will just delay proceedings, Your Honor.”

Reyes was supposed to testify based on Rodrigo’s testimony but the defense pointed out that the minutes of the meeting which Reyes was supposed to present was not available.

Prosecution lawyer Ma. Hazelina Militante apologized to the court and defense panel, saying that their witness had just arrived in the country last Monday after the Easter holidays.

“The prosecution has no reason to say that they are not ready,” the defense answered, noting that they had two weeks to prepare and Arroyo is still detained with her bail petition denied.

Yesterday the First Division denied for the third time the bail petition of Arroyo, who has been detained at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center for poll sabotage charges since 2011.

Militante promised to present their next witness in the coming hearing, or another witness if he or she is not available.

It still has about six to ten witnesses. REINA TOLENTINO

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