MANILA - The Department of Justice (DOJ) and National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) lauded the Ombudsman's junking of the motions for reconsideration (MRs) of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada on the anti-graft office's prior ruling finding probable cause to indict them for plunder in connection with the multi-billion peso "pork barrel" scam.
The NBI, an attached agency of the DOJ, is the public complainant in these cases.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she is very pleased about the development.
"Inaasahan naman po talaga natin na isusustain ng Ombudsman yung finding talaga nila ng probable cause and i-deny yung motions for reconsideration dahil kumbinsidong kumbinsido naman po talaga tayo na may probable cause."
"In fact, it's more than probable cause yung mga ebidensya na nai-share natin with the Ombudsman. So with that we also expect immediate filing with the Sandiganbayan nung corresponding criminal informations [for plunder]," De Lima said in a chance interview with justice beat reporters.
The lawmakers, along with several other respondents, were charged for allegedly siphoning portions of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to non-government organizations (NGOs) linked to alleged scam brains Janet Lim Napoles.
De Lima said the morale of the NBI and those involved in the build-up of these cases is high.
She maintained that the evidence against the respondents is strong.
"[Morale is] still very high because we maintain that we really have sufficient and strong evidence [that] can hold in court. Confident po tayo."
"Intact naman ang mga whistleblowers, nandyan yung mga dokumento so malakas po ang kaso," De Lima said.
JANET LIM NAPOLES
The justice chief had time and again said that the fate of Napoles' immunity plea rests with the Ombudsman.
On June 4, along with its separate orders on the MRs of the lawmakers, the anti-graft office also junked Napoles' plea on the ground that she "appears to be among the most guilty of all respondents."
Now that the Ombudsman has spoken, De Lima said she will defer to the ruling.
"Talaga namang we have deferred the matter for these cases with the Ombudsman kaya nga ni-refer namin ang bagay na yan sa Ombudsman," De Lima said.
Whatever move Napoles' camp will take following the denial of her immunity plea is up to her lawyers, she added.
HAPPY FOR BENHUR LUY, OTHER WHISTLEBLOWERS
The anti-graft office, also on June 4, approved the immunity plea of primary whistleblower Benhur Luy, and other whistleblowers/witnesses Marina Sula, Merlina Sunas, Mary Arlene Baltazar, and Simonette Briones.
De Lima said she was pleased with the ruling, and relieved for Benhur and his group.
"It's, of course, very relieving. And it's probably a very good feeling on the part of these whistleblowers since Benhur and company, as you know, as far as the DOJ is concerned, is covered under the WPP (Witness Protection Program), immune talaga sila. They have been granted immunity from law."
"So siguradong sigurado yung immunity nila Benhur Luy and company... yung naging efforts nila all this time, it's been very, very long journey for them and it's still a long way to go -- you know how a trial can be -- ay, at least,they can be assued na hindi na sila pwedeng i-harass by the threat of filing charges against them," De Lima said.
Luy and the other whistleblowers/witnesses are former employees of Napoles.
De Lima said the focus now will be on the successful prosecution of the cases before the Sandiganbayan.