Bong asks SC to stop indictment for plunder

By Edu Punay, The Philippine Star

Posted at Apr 07 2014 08:10 AM | Updated as of Apr 07 2014 04:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Ramon ''Bong'' Revilla Jr. has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to immediately resolve his plea to stop his indictment for plunder of pork barrel funds.

Revilla, through his lawyer Joel Bodegon, filed an urgent motion on Friday, reiterating his petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the Office of the Ombudsman from proceeding with its criminal proceedings against him.

Revilla, on vacation in Israel, urged the SC to act on his petition for a TRO, saying it would become moot and academic once the Office of the Ombudsman files the plunder case against him and others involved in the pork barrel scam before the Sandiganbayan.

Revilla reminded the SC of the ombudsman’s joint resolution last week finding probable cause against him.

His camp insisted the ombudsman should have exercised prudence from performing any act that would affect the status of the case considering the SC had scheduled oral arguments on his petition.

"The mental torment, anxiety and embarrassment of a full blown public trial... are injuries which Senator Revilla stands to suffer with certainty if the criminal proceedings before the ombudsman are not immediately enjoined," the motion read.

"Taking into account the fact that the criminal proceedings should not even push through on account of a clear prejudicial question, Senator Revilla's injuries are not only grave, they are likewise irreparable."

Revilla earlier filed a petition for certiorari and prohibition in questioning the orders issued by the Ombudsman last January 28 and March 3 denying his motions to suspend preliminary investigation of the plunder case filed against him and several others by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).

Revilla sought the issuance of a TRO to enjoin the Ombudsman from conducting proceedings on the case, pointing out a prejudicial question on the pending civil complaint before the regional trial court of Bacoor City.

Revilla filed the civil complaint to nullify some documents on the supposed allocations of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as his signatures were supposedly forged.

Revilla's lawyers pointed out the prejudicial question when a civil action and a criminal action are both pending, and there exists in the civil action an issue that must be preemptively resolved before the criminal action may proceed. The issue raised in the civil action, such as the case filed in the Bacoor RTC, would determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

However, instead of acting on Revilla's prayer for immediate relief, the SC set his petition for oral arguments on April 22 during summer session in Baguio City.

The SC also directed the Ombudsman to comment on the petition within 10 days.

Revilla’s camp said the “undue haste” on the part of the Ombudsman to resolve the plunder complaint filed against him despite the existence of a prejudicial question violates his constitutional rights to due process.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales pointed out that the civil case for declaration of nullity of Revilla’s PDAF documents “has no bearing in the outcome of the criminal cases filed with the Ombudsman.”

Morales explained the issues in the criminal and civil cases are neither similar nor intimately related to one another, considering that “forgery or falsification, which is the gist of (the civil case), is not a necessary element of the (mentioned crimes).”

The Ombudsman said the civil suit was an afterthought and ploy to delay the criminal proceedings, since Revilla already knew about the PDAF documents and the issue of authenticity or genuineness of his signature on the documents as early as 2011 upon the Commission on Audit’s request for confirmation.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman announced the filing of plunder charges against Revilla and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada over the pork barrel fund scam.

The ombudsman said it has found probable cause to indict the three senators for plunder and multiple counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan for pocketing some P597 million in kickbacks or commissions from their PDAF.

The anti-graft agency also directed the filing of plunder and/or graft cases against businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, Enrile’s chief-of-staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, Revilla’s chief-of-staff Richard Cambe, Enrile and Estrada’s alleged representative Ruby Tuason, Estrada’s staff Pauline Labayen, Technology Resource Center (TRC) director general Dennis Cunanan, and a number of other government officials and employees of non-government organizations (NGOs).

More to follow

More lawmakers will be charged in the new cases involving the pork barrel scam to be filed by the NBI, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

“There will be lawmakers in this third batch who were not included in the earlier cases. In every batch, there ought to be new names,” De Lima said over the weekend.

De Lima said the NBI is now finalizing the new set of charges it will file before the Office of the Ombudsman.

She said this was precisely the subject of her meeting last week with NBI director Virgilio Mendez and Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, the supervising official in the pork barrel cases.

“We had an inventory. There are two possible sets of cases and we’re deciding on which one should be filed first,” De Lima revealed.

While she refused to reveal details, De Lima hinted the new cases involved NGOs and implementing agencies that are not related to Napoles.

De Lima also would not say just yet when exactly the new charges would be filed and how many lawmakers and other personalities will be named respondents.

“I will just make the proper announcement in due time,” she said.

Earlier reports had it that lawmakers allied with the administration – including members of the ruling Liberal Party – are in the new list of the NBI.

It was learned the NBI has gathered both testimonial and documentary evidence to meet requirements for another plunder case.

In the first batch of complaints filed last year Napoles was charged for plunder, along with Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

The Ombudsman already found probable cause to file the case in the Sandiganbayan.

In the second batch of cases filed in the Ombudsman, former Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon, a member of LP, was among those charged for malversation of public funds.

Napoles was also included in that charge sheet along with 26 others, including Energy Regulatory Commission chair Zenaida Ducut and several former congressmen.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma said the Aquino administration is aware of the second batch of officials and private individuals who have been charged before the Ombudsman in connection with abuse in the use of their pork barrel funds.

He said Malacañang is also aware of another case involving the misuse of the Malampaya funds.

“We all know that all of these cases are not just limited to the three senators. There is still one case that involves anomalies in the use of PDAF, and one relating to Malampaya that has been submitted to the Ombudsman and which we are now awaiting,” Coloma said.

Coloma recalled there is still a pending case undergoing investigation at the NBI and the Department of Justice that is still being pursued by investigators and government prosecutors, respectively.

“In all of these cases, we only have one overriding principle according to the President: The investigation should be directed based on the evidence that has been gathered,” he said.

Coloma reiterated the Aquino administration’s promise that it will deliver justice to all and will spare no one – friend or foe – in the pork barrel scam, even as three senators belonging to the political opposition have been recommended charged for plunder.

“All those who should be held accountable will be held accountable under our laws. The executive department will do whatever is necessary,” Coloma said.

Coloma clarified though that in other aspects of the case, the jurisdiction rests with the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan, should the indictments finally materialize. –Delon Porcalla