Sandiganbayan reprimands complainant in mayor's case

THE Sandiganbayan Fourth Division has issued a resolution reminding lawyer Joselito Bayatan not to directly file pleadings to the court without the consent or approval of the public prosecutors assigned to handle the case of Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella.

Bayatan, a former city legal officer of Bacolod, is one of the private complainants in the criminal case against Puentevella for alleged violation of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, filed at the Sandiganbayan.

The graft case against Puentevella and two other officials stemmed from the alleged anomalous purchase of computers and software packages at P400,000 each, from 2001 to 2006, funded by his Priority Development Assistance Fund when he was congressman of Bacolod City.

The anti-graft court said Bayatan serves only as a nominal complainant in the case and has no right to file pleadings without passing through the public prosecutors.

A copy of the minutes of the proceedings by Associate Justices Jose Hernandez, Alex Quiroz and Oscar Herrera Jr. held on Aug. 7 stated that if there is any information or evidence which Bayatan thinks or feels might be relevant to this case or to the proceedings, or any incident therein, he is directed to immediately relay or communicate the same to the public prosecutors concerned so that the latter can take necessary action or file the appropriate further pleadings as they see fit under the circumstances.

u201cAny pleadings or written submissions to be filed by Bayatan without the consent, approval, or imprimatur or the prosecutors would be dealt with accordingly,” the Sandigan said.

It also added that the prosecution does not question the propriety of resetting the arraignment of Puentevella scheduled on May 14 on the ground that Puentevella was “sick” on that day.

“Such illness was attested by the medical certificate issued by Dr. Jovy Vergara, assistant City Helath Officer," the Sandigan also stated in the minutes.

It added that the medical certificate enjoys the presumption of regularity and the mere allegation by Bayatan that such certificate “can be easily obtained” by Puentevella. But, the Sandigan said this was not sufficient to overcome it.

The Sandiganbayan also stated that there is no practical use of belaborating the issue as it would only unnecessarily side-track the court on non-essential and collateral matters that would delay the proceedings.

For his part, Bayatan said he was just telling the Sandiganbayan the truth. “The tenor of the resolution is instructive, and I shall observe it," he said.

Commenting on the minutes of the proceedings, City Legal Officer Rayfrando Diaz II claimed that the conduct of Bayatan has political agenda.

u201cThis is clearly politicking and harassment against the mayor,” Diaz stressed. He also advised Bayatan not to let politics or hatred get the better of him.

Bayatan, in reply, said, "My manifestation before the Sandiganbayan is not about politics, neither about 'hate' as claimed by (the mayor) and his lawyer. My action is not also being unprofessional but to inform the court the truth, being my duty as a lawyer and as officer of the court."


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