Surigao lawmaker hits 4 witnesses’ testimony

A CONGRESSMAN from Surigao del Norte, who was charged with graft for the overpricing of medicine and medical supplies, has urged the Sandiganbayan government lawyers’ request to take the deposition of four witnesses against him and 10 co-accused.

Citing technicalities in the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rep. Francisco Matugas asked the court not to allow government lawyers to take the depositions of lawyer Rene Medina, provincial board member Victor Bernal, former Vice Gov. Rodolfo Navarro and businesswoman Mary Ann Yparraguirre, the possible witnesses against him.

Matugas argued the law only allows conditional examination of potential witnesses but only under specific circumstances like serious sickness or infirmity; or if the witness is leaving the country with no definite date of return.

The motion to take oral deposition may not be legally granted as the same is no longer allowed by the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, Matugas and former provincial administrator Carlos Egay noted their joint motion.

Egay and another co-defendant, businessman Ernesto Bravo of Martin Pharmaceutical Laboratory Inc., also signed the motion.

“There is no procedural ground available to grant prosecution’s motion for oral depositions of its witnesses or even their conditional examinations. For sure, distance and financial constraints are not valid reasons since the Republic of the Philippines is assumed to have the facilities for making [its witnesses] available during scheduled hearings,” Bravo said in his pleading.

Matugas had earlier asked the court to drop him from the case because he had no participation in the bidding and awarding of the contracts and claimed that his indictment was the result of pressure and influence exerted by his political opponents in his province.

But Prosecutor Julieta Zinnia Niduaza said the four possible witnesses could not personally appear in court because they all live in Surigao del Norte and could not afford to come to Manila for the hearing.


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