MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has allowed government prosecutors to file the sworn testimonies of its witnesses in the forfeiture case against former Justice secretary Hernando "Nani" Perez.
In its resolution dated July 28, the anti-graft court, through Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang, ordered the government to submit the judicial affidavits of all its witnesses within a non-extendible period of 15 days and said all other judicial affidavits submitted beyond this period shall not be admitted.
The order was earlier opposed by the respondents in the case for failing to comply with court rules.
"In the higher interest of justice, the Court is giving the petitioner (government) one final opportunity to submit the judicial affidavits of all its witnesses to ensure that the merits of the case will be fully ventilated," the court said .
The case for forfeiture of unlawfully acquired property under Republic Act 1379 stemmed from Perez's alleged demand for USD2 million from former Manila lawmaker Mario Crespo a.k.a. Mark Jimenez in 2001, for the latter not be included in the plunder investigation against former President Joseph Estrada, in connection with the multi-billion-peso Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan (CBK) power plant project.
Officials of Estrada's cabinet later described the project as an anomalous deal.
Former Bulacan 2nd District Rep. Wilfrido Villarama, in a congressional speech in 2002, alleged the money given by Jimenez to Perez was coursed through businessman Ernest Escaler's offshore bank account.
Aside from Perez, then Justice secretary of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, other respondents included Perez's wife Rosario, and his brother-in-law Ramon Antonio Arceo Jr.
"Under ordinary circumstances, this Court will deny the admission of these judicial affidavits for being non-compliant with its order. However, considering that the trial proper has not yet begun, this Court admits them in the higher interest of substantial justice to give the parties the opportunity to fully present their case," the tribunal added.
The respondents earlier objected and moved to expunge from the records the sworn statements of witnesses Liezel de Leon, Hendeliza Quiambao Encabo, Bernard V. Corrales, Mary Susan S. Guillermo and James G. Viernes citing failure to comply with court rules.
The government, meanwhile, said much of the delay and failure to comply was due to the restrictions brought by the coronavirus pandemic. (PNA)