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Bong Pineda nowhere to be found

() - June 16, 2005 - 12:00am
Even before news of the jueteng payola controversy broke, suspected jueteng lord Rodolfo "Bong" Pineda was nowhere to be found in his hometown of Pampanga, a barangay official of Lubao town told the Sandiganbayan yesterday.

Barangay captain Reynaldo Sadsad of barangay Concepcion in the municipality of Lubao told the local Philippine National Police station, which was tasked to serve the subpoena to Pineda, that he was "no longer seen in our barangay since March (2005) up to the present."

Local police chief Sr. Inspector Samuel Pabonita attached the certification Sadsad issued to them, informing the special division of the anti-graft court that the subpoena had not been served after they received it last June 8.

Pabonita said the summons, which was dated June 3, was handed over to them by postman Sonny Alcantara. He said they tried to locate Pineda at the specified address, but that the subpoena was not served because "he was not found at the given address."

Pineda did not show up at the scheduled hearing of the Sandiganbayan last week, where he was expected to affirm the statement he had sent to the House of Representatives claiming no knowledge of jueteng. He had also denied being a jueteng lord.

One of the detained former president’s lawyers, Jose Flaminiano, was hoping to use the statement Pineda sent the House games and amusement committee to rebut allegations by Ilocos Sur Gov. Luis "Chavit" Singson that the jueteng money he supposedly gave Estrada came from Pineda.

Flaminiano and fellow counsel Raymond Fortun argued that if Pineda’s statement were validated, Singson’s testimony would be placed in doubt, especially if the alleged jueteng lord personally denied any knowledge or involvement in the illegal numbers game.

Earlier, Chief Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa Ignacio told reporters he had received reliable information that Pineda left the country and could no longer be presented by the defense panel as one of their witnesses in the case. He said they would check with the Immigration bureau.

Flaminiano admitted he does not know the whereabouts of Pineda, and could not say when he could be presented in court, which has been trying the P4.1-billion plunder case against Estrada since 2001. — Delon Porcalla

CHIEF SPECIAL PROSECUTOR DENNIS VILLA IGNACIO DELON PORCALLA FLAMINIANO HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES ILOCOS SUR GOV JOSE FLAMINIANO LUBAO PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE PINEDA RAYMOND FORTUN
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