Friday, February 2, 1999

Judge cuts time for........ defense, says right........ already waived

     TIME run out for the seven accused in the Chiong kidnapped-slay case yesterday, when the judge barred their lawyers from further presenting their defense. 

      Judge Martin Ocampo made good his threat to consider their right to present evidence waived if they cannot present witnesses. 

      The defense have yet to decide what legal remedy to take.

      The seven accused - - - Francisco Juan Larraņaga, Josman Aznar, Rowen Adlawan, Ariel Balansag, Alberto Caņo, James Anthony Uy and his older brother James Andrew - - - appeared bewildered. 

      "I can testify anytime." Larraņaga said.

      As defense lawyers argued about Ocampo's ruling, Larraņaga waived his hand twice to signal he wanted to testify.

      But the judge overlooked him and his lawyer failed to acknowledge him.

      His mother Margarita refused to lose hope. "Lies have been said in this court, but I just pray justice will prevail. Ang Ginoo ra'y mahibawo." (This is in God's hands.)

      A verbal motion for reconsideration was immediately denied.

      "Go to the Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court," Ocampo told frustrated lawyers. 

      "We should be given ample time," said lawyer Sisinio Andales.

      The prosecution will start presenting "about 10" rebuttal witness this afternoon. The defense may present sur rebuttal witnesses after that. 

      Trial began seven months ago on the abduction, rape and killing of sisters Marijoy and Jacqueline Chiong. 

      Judge Ocampo wanted the prosecution to present first rebuttal witness yesterday, and Thelma Chiong was called to take the stand.

      What the judge wants is for the security chief in Ayala Center or a Mabolo policeman to testify on accused Adlawan and James Anthony Uy's alleged mauling of a high school student four days before Marijoy and Jacqueline were abducted. 

      In previous orders, Ocampo warned that failure to present witnesses would mean a waiver. He also warned defense lawyers he would wrap the trial up if they kept presenting "irrelevant witnesses."


      Adlawan's lawyer from the Public Attorney's Office wanted to present a plumber to prove that the accused was in his house when the crime was committed.

      At 2:55 p.m., Ocampo ordered a 15-minute recess for the defense to produce plumber Crisanto Peņaflor Jr.

      By 4:40 pm, there was still no Peņaflor.

      Lawyer John de Jesus told reporters that Peņaflor, who knew he was supposed to testify yesterday afternoon, had to run an errand.

      "According to his wife, his boss picked Peņaflor up at noon because there was something urgent to be done," de Jesus said in an interview with reporters.

      Larraņaga's lawyer, Teodoro Villarmia, stood and told the court he will present weather specialist Mario Alesna to prove that on July 16 and 17, 1997 it rained hard.

      His rationale: It would have been impossible for Josman Aznar's group to hold a pot session on a cliff in Carcar, from which Marijoy was allegedly pushed off.

      The prosecution's objection to presenting the weather specialist was sustained.

      Ocampo repeatedly said the defense wasted so much time presenting "immaterial and irrelevant" evidence.

      (At least 3 witnesses had been presented to testify that Larraņaga was in Manila on the night the Chiong sisters were abducted.)

      He is also tired of hearing the case, he said, when asked by defense lawyer Andales.

      "I now consider the accused to have waived their right to present evidence... That is final," Ocampo said, ordering the prosecution to immediately present rebuttal evidence. 

      Andales, when asked whether they will cite Ocampo's ruling as a ground for mistrial, said: "We hope the Supreme Court will see it that way."

      The prosecution hailed Ocampo's ruling, "The judge has no recourse. (The defense) deserves that order," said private prosecutor Honorato Hermosisima.

      They are taking things for granted," he said.

      "It's not difficult to understand his ruling. The defense had been warned to prepare at least one witness from each lawyer, and they knew we would object to Alesna's testimony." OCD

NOTE:  1.  RED COLOR OURS FOR EMPHASIS.                                                                                

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