MANILA (Mabuhay) – The prosecution team got reinforcements in proving the guilt of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Bong Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and the other accused in the multi-billion pork barrel fund scam.
At the sidelines of the hearing on Revilla’s motion for bail before the Sandiganbayan First Division on Thursday, Justice Undersecretary Jose Justiniano confirmed that he is now part of the prosecution team.
Aside from Justiniano, also joining the prosecution team are Jarveen Ho and Hazel Deceña-Valdez, two senior state prosecutors of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG).
“We were deputized by the Office of the Ombudsman. We received the order to join the prosecution team last week,” Justiniano told reporters, adding they have already entered appearances starting Thursday and in the succeeding hearings.
Justiniano was part of the prosecution team during the impeachment trial of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona in the Senate in 2012. He was also part of the defense team in the high-profile rape case of US soldier Lance Corporal Daniel Smith, who was accused of raping a Filipina during his stay in the Philippines.
The Court of Appeals acquitted Smith and ordered his immediate release in April 2009.
Justiniano, on Thursday, said they were deputized by the Ombudsman just to “assist” the prosecution team.
“For secondary functions lang kami, like advising on what documentary evidence the prosecution team should present, talking to the witnesses, determining the relevant testimonies. Talagang supporting role lang ang papel ko dito,” he said.
Asked on why the Ombudsman deemed it necessary to provide assistance to the current team of prosecutors, Justiniano said: “I cannot answer that, but I can assure you na magagaling ang mga abogado ng prosecution.”
Familiarity with the case
Justiniano said since he was involved with the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation on the pork barrel fund scam, his extensive knowledge on the subject matter would help in giving advice to the prosecution.
The DOJ investigation on the pork barrel scam led to the filing of a complaint before the Ombudsman, which found probable cause to charge the respondents with plunder and graft before the Sandiganbayan.
“Since day one involved na ako with the investigation,” Justiniano said. “So kung baga alam ko yung tenor ng testimony ng mga testigo, alam ko yung nilalaman ng mga documentary evidence. Maybe that’s why the Ombudsman asked me to join.”
Prosecution teams in the pork cases with the anti-graft court’s Third Division, First Division and Fifth Division had been receiving some amount of scolding from the Sandiganbayan justices mainly due to unorganized presentation of evidence.
The lawyer of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the scam, meanwhile welcomed the inclusion of Justiniano, Ho and Valdez in the prosecution team.
“I would like to welcome the appearance of Justiniano in this court,” lawyer Stephen David said during the hearing.
“Welcome sa amin sa defense ang pag-join nila. Kung makakatulong sila para mabilis ang proceedings at mapalabas ang katotohanan mas maganda,” he added. (MNS)