MANILA (2nd UPDATE) - The Office of the Ombudsman has found probable cause to file plunder and graft charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada Jr., Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and others tagged in one of the biggest corruption scandals in the country's history.
In a press conference, Spokesman and Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales signed three separate joint resolutions that saw the three senators under an alleged modus operandi where they “repeatedly received sums of money from [businesswoman Janet Napoles]…” that took place for a number of years.
Napoles, as the alleged conduit of the scam, will also be included in the cases that will be filed before the Sandiganbayan as soon as all motions for reconsideration are resolved.
Rafanan said all the respondents failed to sufficiently answer nor provide evidence to counter the sworn statements of witnesses led by Benhur Luy, the report of the Commission on Audit (COA) on the illegal use of the pork barrel, as well as field verifications and sworn statements from local government units and the supposed beneficiaries of the Napoles projects.
On plunder, Rafanan said: "The joint resolutions concluded that the three senators took undue advantage of their positions to illegally divert, in connivance [with others], their priority development assistance fund to the Napoles NGOs."
Enrile allegedly plundered P172 million, Revilla’s at P242 million, and Estrada P183 million.
In approving the filing of the complaints, the Ombudsman said the respondents "conspired… causing undue injury to the government."
Rafanan said the amounts “amassed or misappropriated” are: Enrile with P345 million, Revilla with P517 million, and Jinggoy with P278 million.
It is the first time that Philippine senators are facing such serious charges. Plunder is a non-bailable crime.
Ruby Tuason, Gigi Reyes, et al
In the case of Enrile, 15 counts of graft raps will be filed against the senator, chief of staff Gigi Reyes, Ruby Tuason, Janet Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim, and John Raymond de Asis.
In the case of Revilla, 16 counts of graft raps will be filed against the senator, Richard Cambe, as well as Napoles, Lim, and de Asis.
In the case of Estrada, 11 counts of graft will be filed against the senator, Pauline Labayen, as well as Napoles, Lim, de Asis, and Tuason.
Tuason, the former social secretary of ex-President Joseph Estrada, arrived in the country from the United States to reveal her supposed knowledge of the pork scam. In a Senate hearing, she claimed she personally delivered the pork kickbacks to Senator Estrada and Enrile’s chief of staff, Gigi Reyes.
Rafanan said Tuason has already applied for “immunity” from the suits, which has yet to be tackled. “The Office of the Ombudsman first resolved the liabilities.”
On the others who are now out of the country, Rafanan said the office will “try its best” to deliver the resolutions for proper appeal. Each respondent has five days to answer upon receipt of the resolutions.
Possible hold departure order requests will be tackled as soon as the information sheets or charge sheets will be filed, he added.
The Ombudsman has yet to issue a resolution on the other liabilities of several other lawmakers, including allies of President Aquino.
Any filing at the Sandiganbayan is but a small part of the entire legal process. A decision by the Sandiganbayan will still move up to the Supreme Court.
Some quarters have criticized the slow justice in the country.
Plunder complaint against Senator Bong Revilla
Plunder complaint against Senator Juan Ponce Enrile
Plunder complaint against Senator Jinggoy Estrada