Former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile failed to fend off a witness in his plunder case since the Sandiganbayan Third Division junked his Objection and allowed prosecution witness Atty. Ryan P. Medrano, Director IV of the Field Investigation Office of the Ombudsman, to use his Judicial Affidavit.
Enrile is facing one plunder and 15 graft charges because of the reported misuse of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF), which he allegedly endorsed to the bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for kickbacks.
For Enrile’s plunder case, the Office of the Special Prosecutor submitted the Judicial Affidavit of Atty. Medrano dated February 12, which Enrile filed an Objection to.
Enrile said in his Objection that Atty. Medrano’s Judicial Affidavit should be disallowed because he is charged with plunder, which is an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua. He reasoned that the Judicial Affidavit Rule only applies to criminal actions where the maximum of the imposable penalty does not exceed six years.
Enrile added that the oral testimony of Atty. Medrano should “be clearly limited to what is relevant in proving the elements of plunder as charged in the Information.”
The prosecution argued otherwise, stating that the Judicial Affidavit Rule has long been amended and the prevailing rule is that Judicial Affidavits, in the absence of any sworn statements or affidavits submitted during investigation, shall be used as a form of testimony in open court.
Atty. Medrano was Graft Investigation and Prosecution Office (GIPO) I and GIPO III from 2010 to 2018. As GIPO I, Atty. Medrano was one of the members of the Special Team I formed by the Ombudsman to conduct fact-finding investigation on the release and use of the PDAF of Enrile for the years 2007 to 2009.
In this case, the anti-graft court found merit in the arguments of the prosecution.
“Atty. Medrano falls within the enumeration…where the use of judicial affidavit is allowed regardless of the imposable penalty: he was an investigator who could testify on the authenticity, due execution and contents of, among others, the Complaint he and his team prepared,” the resolution stated.
The anti-graft court explained that Enrile’s culpability or innocence will not be based on the testimony of Atty. Medrano, since he was not an eyewitness to the offense charged. His testimony, it stressed, will be on the identification of the documents submitted.
The court added that Enrile will be given the opportunity to cross-examine Atty. Medrano in order to satisfy his constitutional right to confrontation.
The five-page resolution was written by Associate Justice Ronald Moreno with the concurrence of Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito Fernandez.