Prosecution insists on Czech envoy's video conference testimony on MRT case

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 22 2018 07:36 PM

MANILA - Government prosecutors have insisted that former Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar be allowed to testify via video conferencing in the on-going trial of former MRT-3 General Manager Al Vitangcol at the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division.

In a motion for reconsideration, the prosecution told the court that it is difficult to bring Rychtar to the Philippines in the absence of a mutual legal assistance treaty or reciprocity agreement on criminal matters between the Philippines and the Czech Republic.

Rychtar is currently serving as Czech Ambassador to Chile and the prosecution is proposing that he testify either in the Czech Republic or his current place of assignment.

The prosecution reiterated that Rychtar’s testimony is vital as he would testify that Vitangcol extorted from him and Inekon Group Chairman Josef Husek in exchange for the MRT-3 maintenance contract.

“At any rate, Ambassador Rychtar has expressed his willingness to testify via video conferencing,” the prosecution said in its motion for reconsideration signed by Deputy Special Prosecutor Omar Sagadal.

The court had junked the state's initial plea.

Vitangcol is facing two counts of graft and one count of violation of the Government Procurement Act before the anti-graft court.

In the opposition to the motion for reconsideration, lawyer Pacifico Agabin said allowing a video conference testimony would violate Vitangcol's right to “meet the witnesses face-to-face.”

Agabin said Rychtar had refused to receive his subpoena because it is not compliant with the laws of the Czech Republic, according to a letter from Jakub Pastuszek, Director of the Czech government's Department of Criminal Matters.

He said Rychtar is actually avoiding to go back to the Philippines because of a perjury complaint against him pending at the Mandaluyong City Prosecutor's Office.

“The moment Rychtar sets foot in this country again, the subpoena will be served upon him, making him now under the jurisdiction of the Philippine judicial system. This is what Rychtar is avoiding,” Agabin said in an opposition to the motion for reconsideration.

Vitangcol also emphasized that if Rychtar is allowed to testify via video conferencing, he could not be charged with perjury.

“In most probability, Rychtar will be committing perjury in his testimony. How could he be held liable for this crime if he is not within the Philippines’ geographical territory?” he said.