The Sandiganbayan has denied the Ombudsman’s plea to allow the former Czech ambassador to the Philippines to testify through video conferencing in the case against former Metro Rail Transit Line 3 general manager Al Vitangcol III.
In a resolution dated Aug. 1, the Special Third Division turned down the prosecution’s appeal “for lack of merit.”
The Ombudsman prosecutors failed to establish the necessity of current ambassador to Chile Josef Rychtar’s testimony.
However, the anti-graft court’s Sixth Division allowed Rychtar and Inekon board chairman Josef Husek to testify via video conferencing in the $30-million extortion case of Vitangcol provided the prosecution adhered to its conditions.
Vitangcol was charged with two counts each of grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and unlawful solicitation and imposed upon him the penalty of dismissal from service with cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from holding public office.
Vitangcol was also accused of putting pressure on the Inekon representatives to enter into a joint venture agreement with his supposed “envoy” Wilson de Vera for the contract.
Separate graft charges had also been filed against Vitangcol in connection with the alleged anomalous awarding of the MRT-3’s $1.15-million maintenance contract to PH Trams and its joint venture, Comm Builders and Technology Philippines Corp., in October 2012.
The Ombudsman cited Section 1, Rule 10 of the Rules on Electronic Evidence as a legal means to enable Rychtar to testify through video conference at the Philippine Embassy in Chile.
But the anti-graft court said Rychtar’s testimony would be irrelevant to Vitangcol’s case since it involved his alleged financial or pecuniary interest in PH Trams.
“It is thus clear that the proposed testimony of Ambassador Rychtar is immaterial to the present cases. To be sure, these cases do not involve any alleged extortion by the accused on the Inekon Group,” the Sandiganbayan said in the resolution authored by presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
Associate Justices Bernelito Fernandez and Sarah Jane Fernandez concurred in the resolution.