MANILA - A Palace spokesman on Wednesday said senators and other persons charged before the Sandiganbayan in connection with the pork barrel scam may be arrested.
This is after the Ombudsman ordered the filing of plunder charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla and others in connection with the scam.
In a press briefing, Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma spelled out what’s next based on his reading of the law, which included the arrest of the accused.
1. Under the law, each and every one of the respondents is given five days from receipt of the Ombudsman’s resolution to file a Motion for Reconsideration;
2. The Ombudsman will evaluate and resolve such motions up to a maximum of 60 days;
3. The Ombudsman will file the information with the Sandiganbayan;
4. The case will then be raffled-off to one of the five divisions of the Sandigandayan (each division has three justices);
5. Upon evaluation of the information and the records of the case, the Court will issue warrants of arrest. (The issuance of the warrants of arrest ensures that the Court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused.)
6. Trial will commence.
Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan earlier said the anti-graft panel found probable cause for the indictment of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla and their alleged conspirators.
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.
"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 P242 million, and Estrada P183 million.
Asked if Malacañang will move to stop any possible hospital arrest of the accused, Coloma said it will be up to the court to decide on this matter.
He said the court also has the sole power to issue hold-departure orders against the accused.
Coloma emphasized that the cases are beyond Malacanang's power after these were filed before the Ombudsman and the anti-graft court.
He said the filing of the cases was based on evidence, dispelling allegations it was meant only for administration rivals.
"Ang batayang prinsipyo lang na ating sinusunod dito sa simula pa nitong usaping ito ay iyong sinabi ng ating Pangulo: Let the evidence direct the course of the inquiry. Kaya lahat naman ng isinagawa ng Department of Justice, ng [National Bureau of Investigation] ay patungkol doon sa pagkalap ng ebidensiya. Ito ay isinagawa nila ayon sa kanilang mandato at kagaya ng ating naipahayag kahapon, iyong separate findings ng NBI at ng field investigation office ng Office of the Ombudsman ang naging batayan doon sa promulgation nila ng kanilang resolusyon hinggil sa kasong ito," he said.
He said it is up to the Ombudsman on how long it will take to investigate similar cases involving administration allies.
"Nakahain na po iyong tinutukoy ninyong kaso sa Tanggapan ng Ombudsman. Kung maaalala ninyo, dalawang kaso na iyong naihain patungkol sa PDAF, ano, at merong isang kaso tungkol sa Malampaya funds.At ang dalawang kasong binanggit ay nasa pangangasiwa na ngayon ng Office of the Ombudsman. Kinikilala po natin ang pagiging indipendiyenteng body ng Ombudsman naaayon sa ating Konstitusyon. Doon po sa ating pahayag kahapon, ang huli pong pangungusap ay nagsasaad: 'We share our people’s fervent hopes on the final resolution of these cases.' Patungkol na rin iyon doon sa Malampaya at doon sa iba pang kaso na nakahain pa ngayon, ano, nakasalang pa ngayon sa proseso ng Ombudsman," he said.