The Sandiganbayan has denied the motion of former Toledo City Mayor John Henry Osmeña to allow City Treasurer Leandro A. Rivera Jr. as a hostile witness in his graft case.
A hostile witness “is called by an adverse party to testify in a case and may be expected to be biased in his testimony against the adverse party.”
Osmeña is facing six graft charges for withholding the releases of the real property tax (RPT) shares of a barangay for two quarters in 2014 and for the 2015 fiscal year.
In his motion, Osmeña said Rivera should be declared as a hostile witness. However, he said he will dispense with Rivera’s testimony if the prosecution admits to the truthfulness of certain statements, like on his order to Rivera to put on hold the release of the RPTs because of a boundary dispute between Barangay Daanglungsod and Barangay Sangi in Toledo City.
But the prosecution opposed Osmena’s motion as it pointed out that to declare Rivera as a hostile witness is “improper and immaterial.” It said to do so would be contrary to a speedy disposition of the case and a waste of time of the court.
The Sandiganbayan sided with the prosecution. “The Court sees no cogent reason to declare Rivera Jr. as a hostile witness for the defense,” it said in a resolution.
The eight-page resolution was written by Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang with the concurrence of Associate Justices Bernelito R. Fernandez and Ronald B. Moreno.
The criminal charge sheet stated that Osmeña caused “undue injury to Barangay Daanglungsod in Toledo City by withholding, without basis or sufficient justification and in the absence of a temporary restraining order or a preliminary injunction issued by a court” the release of the RPTs of the barangay.
It said that in the third quarter of 2014, he withheld the amount of P2,944,940, which is in violation of the provision of Section 271(d) of Republic Act No. 7160 or the Local Government Code of 1991.
In the fourth quarter of 2014, the criminal charge sheet also stated that he withheld P2,960,606.60. It added that also withheld were the RPTs for 2015 of more than P12 million.