The Sandiganbayan’s Third Division would start imposing a fine each time that pre-trial conferences in the plunder case against Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and his co-accused are postponed.
The fine will range from P3,000 to P5,000 depending on how many postponements were caused by a party to the case.
“If it is done by any of the accused, they will be imposed a fine,” Associate Justice Samuel Martires said on Friday during a hearing on alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’ petition for bail.
The anti-graft court said it would impose fines because the case proceedings are being delayed.
If it will let parties set dates convenient for them, then the pre-trial conferences will not be terminated when the prosecution has already completed its presentation of evidence, said Martires, who at one point quipped that he might reach retirement if the Sandiganbayan allows too many postponements.
The matter was brought up when he asked prosecutors how many days they still need.
Prosecutor Annielyn Medes-Cabelis said they have a proposed schedule.
Martires said the court strictly follows the Supreme Court with respect to conduct of a pre-trial conference.
He cited Rule 118, copies of which he handed both the prosecution and Napoles’ lawyers at another point in the hearing to serve as their guide.
Rule 118 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure provides that a pre-trial is mandatory in criminal cases cognizable by trial courts including the Sandiganbayan, which shall order a pre-trial conference after arraignment and within 30 days from the day it acquires jurisdiction over the accused.
A pre-trial conference aims to consider matters for a fair and expeditious trial.
Such matters include plea bargaining, stipulation of facts, marking for identification of evidence of the parties, waiver of objections to admissibility of evidence and modification of the order of trial if the accused admits the charge but interposes a lawful defense.
“After the pre-trial conference, the court shall issue an order reciting the actions taken, the facts stipulated and evidence marked. Such order shall bind the parties, limit the trial to matters not disposed of and control the course of the action during the trial, unless modified by the court to prevent manifest injustice,” Section 4 of Rule 118 reads.
The court granted the prosecution’s motion seeking additional settings of preliminary conferences and postponement of the pre-trial of the plunder case against Enrile scheduled for August 18.
Instead, the pre-trial was set for October 16.
“Further, the parties are given additional preliminary conference settings on August 22, 2014 and August 29, 2014… September 25, 2014 and September 29, 2014 . . . September 5, 2014, September 19, 2014 and September 26, 2014 . . . October 1, 2014, October 3, 2014, October 7, 2014 and October 9, 2014. . . and on October 10, 2014 . . . So ordered,” the minute resolution issued on Friday read.
The resolution was signed and approved by Presiding Justice and Third Division Chairman Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and fellow Associate Justices Martires and Alex Quiroz.
At a later point during the cross examination of witness Susan Garcia, state auditor, the monotony of the bail hearing was broken by laughter during an exchange between Napoles’ lawyer Stephen David and state lawyer Medes-Cabelis.
The prosecutor was having several documentary pieces of evidence marked that were indicating that one of the accused, John Raymond de Asis, supposedly received checks in transactions related to the case.
“For the record, it is not the counsel of Janet Lim-Napoles who [is]delaying the marking,” David said amid laughter.
“. . . Maybe we can ask the clerk of court,” an equally calm and smiling Medes-Cabelis retorted, eliciting laughter from the crowd.