Sandiganbayan denies motion to recall witness in graft case

Published June 30, 2022, 2:40 PM

by Czarina Nicole Ong Ki


The Sandiganbayan has denied the motion filed by four employees of Aurora province to recall one of their defense witnesses to testify on the “authenticity of the original documents” involved in their graft charges.

Denied was the motion of Provincial Administrator Simeon A. De Castro, Provincial General Services Officer Ricardo Q. Bautista, Provincial Budget Officer Norma R. Clemente, and Assistant Provincial Engineer Benedicto S. Rojo.

They pleaded for the recall of witness Hazel DC Baltazar because “she was not able to bring the originals of the documents required in the subpoena and the original of her appointment and designation as custodian of the subject documents.”

The accused said she “will testify on vital documents that were marked as their exhibits.”

The Sandiganbayan said that despite Baltazar’s failure to bring the original documents as she told the defense lawyer, she was still presented as a witness during the scheduled trial instead of another witness.

“Furthermore, their counsel manifested that they will just present another witness to testify on the documents. All these indicate accused Bautista, et al’s intention to forgo the presentation of Ms. Baltazar’s testimony on the supposedly vital documents. They cannot now ask for her recall because they changed their mind, and solely based on their bare assertion that Ms. Baltazar ‘will testify on vital documents,'” the court said.

The four provincial officials are the co-accused in the graft case filed against Aurora Gov. Gerardo A. Noveras. In 2014, they reportedly conspired with one another and gave undue advantage to RMCR Construction in the award of the contract for the repair of the Dimalang Bridge Approach of the Casiguran-Dilasag Provincial Road and the Road Section of the Casiguran-Dilasag Provincial Road allegedly without public bidding.

The prosecution alleged that the accused “rigged the bidding process” for the said transaction, since RMCR had already implemented and almost completed the repair projects even before the procurement process was concluded.

The resolution denying the accused’s motion was written by Sixth Division Chairperson Sarah Jane T. Fernandez with the concurrence of Associate Justices Karl B. Miranda and Kevin Narce B. Vivero.