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Lawyers fall into verbal tussle at Erap trial

WHAT’s wrong with being “young”?

This was the bone of contention in the heated exchange of words between Chief Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio and Raymond Fortun, counsel for deposed President Joseph Estrada at the sala of the Sandiganbayan Special Division on Wednesday.

The verbal fireworks prompted the court to call for a break, its first since the resumption of the plunder trial last month, to give the heads of the opposing counsels five minutes to cool off.

Villa-Ignacio on Wednesday took the first step in instituting an administrative case against Director Carlos Saunar of the NBI-Zamboanga City, following his admission at the plunder trial that he brought a copy of the documents regarding the probe into the alleged cash advances of Gov. Luis “Chavit” Singson of Ilocos Sur.

The 62-year-old Villa-Ignacio was cross-examining Saunar, the seventh witness for the defense, when Fortun and Jose Flaminiano, another defense lawyer, objected to the prosecutor’s line of questioning.

Villa-Ignacio directly addressed the 40-year-old Fortun and asked the defense lawyer what was his legal basis for objecting to his question.

Fortun said Villa-Ignacio was “arrogant and impertinent” for repeatedly addressing him instead of directing his query to the court.

Lawyers are supposed to direct their answers to a question or the comment of an opposing counsel to the court to avoid a verbal tussle among them.

“We’ve been very patient with this young lawyer, your honors, we move to strike out his comment,” Villa-Ignacio told the court.

“The prosecutor is impertinent and arrogant and I also move to strike out his comment,” came the reply of Fortun.

Flaminiano intervened and asked for a five-minute break to let the flaring tempers simmer down. The court immediately granted the request.

Outside the courtroom, Fortun told reporters that he would not “stand” for the remark of Villa-Ignacio, alluding to the “derogatory” connotation of being described as someone “young.”

“Even among lawyers, you don’t say to somebody ‘bata ka pa, madami ka pang kakaining bigas.’ Whether he’s a seasoned lawyer or not, he should not say that. That’s very impertinent and arrogant,” said Fortun.
–Cheryl M. Arcibal

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