FORMER senator Juan Ponce Enrile has failed to block the presentation of a sworn statement of a corruption investigator from the Office of the Ombudsman in his plunder trial before the Sandiganbayan.
In a resolution issued last January 13, the anti-graft court’s Third Division overruled Enrile’s objections to the prosecution’s submission of the judicial affidavit of Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer Ryan Medrano as part of its evidence.
The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Ronald B. Moreno and concurred in by Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang and Associate Justice Bernelito R. Fernandez.
Medrano was a member of the panel of lawyers from the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office that investigated transactions involving Enrile’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or “pork barrel” allocations from 2007 to 2009.
The same FIO team drafted the criminal complaints that resulted in Enrile’s indictment for plunder and multiple counts of graft in 2013.
Enrile was accused of amassing P172.83 million from PDAF transactions in conspiracy with his staff Jessica Lucille “Gigi” Reyes, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and her employee, John Raymond de Asis.
Prosecutors said that as an investigator, Medrano evaluated documents relative to how sums from the senator’s PDAF were released and spent.
He also reviewed the audit reports on the PDAF and met face to face with municipal officials and supposed beneficiaries of projects funded by Enrile’s PDAF.
Enrile opposed the submission of Medrano’s affidavit on the ground that the plunder charge is an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua while the admission of judicial affidavits is only allowed in cases where the maximum penalty does not exceed six years.
Prosecutors countered that Enrile cited an outdated rule that has long been amended by the Revised Guidelines for Continuous Trial of Criminal Cases which permits judicial affidavits in lieu of oral testimony at the witness stand.
The prosecution added that allowing the judicial affidavit will speed up proceedings in the seven-year old case.
Enrile insisted that as an accused, he has a right to meet those who are testifying against him face to face.
The Sandiganbayan upheld the stand of the prosecution noting that Medrano’s testimony is only limited to identifying and authenticating documents and reports pertaining to the case.
“As one of the members of the Special Team 1 formed by the Office of the Ombudsman… he was an investigator who can testify on the authenticity, due execution and contents of, among others, the complaint he and his team prepared,” the court pointed out.
The court likewise clarified that by the limited nature of Medrano’s testimony, Enrile’s culpability or innocence will not be based on the judicial affidavit, noting that the investigator has no personal knowledge of the facts and circumstances constituting plunder.
“Prescinding from these circumstances, the Court allows the use of the judicial affidavit of Atty Medrano in the present case, subject to additional direct and cross-examination questions. The opportunity given to Enrile to cross-examine the witness satisfies his constitutional right to confrontation,” it added.