Prosecution fails in last attempt to present Czech envoy in MRT-3 extortion case

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 26 2018 03:37 PM

MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has denied the prosecution's request to reset anew the presentation of former Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar as a witness in the graft case against former Metro Rail Transit (MRT) Line 3 General Manager Al Vitangcol for an alleged extortion attempt six years ago. 

This after hearings on August 31 and September 7 were cancelled because Rychtar and Czech train supplier Inekon Chairman of the Board Josef Husek were unavailable. 

Both were supposed to give testimonies via video conferencing from abroad.

The court denied the prosecution's request to reset Friday's supposed hearing to December 2018 or January 2019.

“This court has given the prosecution several opportunities to present Amb. Rychtar and Mr. Husek, whether in person or by means of video conferencing,” the court said in a resolution dated October 11, 2018. 

It was signed by Division Chairperson Sarah Jane Fernandez and Associate Justices Karl Miranda and Kevin Narce Vivero.

The court reiterated that Oct. 26, Friday, was the prosecution's last chance to present the witnesses and that “no further hearing date will be set for the presentation of the prosecution’s evidence in chief.”

Prosecutors earlier asked the court to allow Rychtar, last assigned as envoy to Chile, and Husek, who is in Czech Republic, to give their testimonies via teleconferencing in Philippine embassies in their respective locations. 

Rychtar completed his tour of duty in Chile last October 1 while Husek will not be able to testify because of legal impediments under Czech Republic laws.

The prosecution had insisted on the testimonies of the witnesses to help prove that Vitangcol allegedly tried to extort $30 million from Inekon officials in 2012.

“In the absence of any commitment to testify on the part of Amb. Rychtar and Mr. Husek, and also considering that Amb. Rychtar does not know where he will be at the end of October, and that the legal impediments to the giving of Mr. Husek’s testimony will not be removed within the next few months, resetting the hearing to December 2018 or January 2019 will accomplish nothing but cause delay in the proceedings,” the court said. 

The court then ordered the prosecution to move to the filing of its formal offer of exhibits.

Aside from the attempts to present the two Czech nationals before the 6th Division, a similar request was junked by the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division as it was deemed immaterial to the case of Vitangcol pertaining to favors allegedly given to maintenance service provider PH Trams.