MANILA (UPDATED) - Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago has a message for the voting public: don't vote for any lawmaker involved in the pork barrel scam.
Speaking before some 2,000 students of the Lyceum of the Philippines University (LPU) in Batangas City, Santiago said the 2016 presidential elections will be a test of leadership during these dark days when government is investigating the P10 billion pork barrel scandal involving Janet Lim-Napoles.
The senator urged the students not to reelect "senators or congressmen running for reelection in 2016, if they are among those against whom the Ombudsman will file criminal charges for plunder or malversation of public funds in the Sandiganbayan."
"When the Ombudsman conducts the preliminary investigation, she goes over voluminous papers and other documents, as well as affidavits executed by eyewitnesses. She has to do this, because under the law, the Ombudsman who is the prosecutor in this case, has to prove what the law calls a prima facie case. The term prima facie is a Latin phrase which means at first sight, or on first appearance, but subject to further evidence or information. Hence, if the Ombudsman files a case against a reelectionist for plunder in the Sandiganbayan, this means that she has in her possession enough evidence to allow the trial court to rule in favor of the government," Santiago said.
The senator also urged the public to reject politicians who are "consistently silent on the pork barrel scandal."
She said politicians who remain silent while the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigation is ongoing shows that "the particular politician is willing to make friends with anybody, right or wrong, corrupt or honest, as long as the politician can gather votes."
"That candidate is an opportunist. He does not act out of conviction, but acts out of what is convenient for himself,” she said.
"Politicians who purposely refrain from participating in the national debate on the pork barrel scandal are politicians who are cowards, because they refuse to take a position for fear of incurring the anger of the guilty ones. This kind of cowardice is anathema to leadership," she added.
In her speech, Santiago mentioned several times her nemesis in the Senate whom she only called "matanda."
At least 38 people are facing plunder, bribery and malversation charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for their alleged roles in the pork barrel scam.
Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are among those included in the first batch of cases filed in connection with the scam. - with a report from Arnell Ozaeta, ABS-CBN News Southern Tagalog