MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday directed the Office of the Ombudsman to answer the second petition of Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. seeking to stop his indictment for plunder and other charges filed against him in connection with the pork barrel scam.
In a press conference, SC spokesman Theodore Te said the anti-graft office is given 10 days from notice to comply with the order.
In a 38-page petition filed last May 27, Revilla said his constitutional right to due process was violated when the ombudsman did not fully grant his plea to be furnished copies of 19 counter-affidavits submitted by his co-respondents in the plunder case.
Revilla also sought the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the filing of charges against him with the Sandiganbayan. Plunder is a non-bailable offense.
Revilla wanted to get copies of all 19 answers, but the investigating panel of the anti-graft office approved the release of only six, in a joint order last May 15.
Revilla said he found the order questionable since it was issued after the panel had already found probable cause for the plunder charges.
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“This leads to no other conclusion than that the special panel attempted, but failed, to rectify its error in denying Senator Revilla’s right to due process,” read his petition filed through lawyer Joel Bodegon.
Bodegon said the alleged violation of his client’s constitutional right to due process should be enough to justify the voiding of the ombudsman’s finding of probable cause as well as the holding of a new preliminary investigation.
“A preliminary investigation that is bereft of due process, as in the instant cases, is a complete nullity,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, who is also facing plunder charges, said the government should demonstrate its impartiality on the pork barrel issue by expanding its investigation to include administration allies linked to the scam like Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.
“Fairness dictates that if we will be charged in court and sent to jail, they should also investigate and charge the others who were mentioned,” Estrada said in Filipino.
Also indicted for plunder is Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Estrada said the affidavits of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles as well as the digital files of whistle-blower Benhur Luy included lists of several incumbent and former lawmakers who had reportedly transacted with the businesswoman.
Estrada said the allegations raised against them paled in comparison with those made against Abad.
Estrada said he and his two senator-colleagues have only been accused of making endorsements to government implementing agencies on how to use their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
In her sworn affidavit, Napoles claimed that she learned the ropes of the trade from Abad.
Napoles claimed that the legislators ended up pocketing 50 percent of the amounts that they assigned to her NGOs, while she also received a percentage for her role.
“They should start with that of Butch Abad. They are the ones who release the funds, not us. If he is really the mentor, then he should know all of the ins and outs,” Estrada said.
Estrada said that Napoles and Abad should be made to appear before the next hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee “so that you will see who is really lying.”
“That would be exciting,” he said.
Estrada pointed out that Abad was also the brains behind the controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), which allowed the realignment of savings in the national budget to projects that needed to be implemented right away.
However, it was alleged that funds released through DAP were given to the senators who voted for the conviction of former chief justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial.
“He (Abad) was the mastermind of that. He was the one who admitted that the funds that went to the senators came from DAP. Even the COA (Commission on Audit) received DAP funds,” Estrada said. - Marvin Sy