Their day in court | Inquirer Opinion

Their day in court

/ 01:23 AM April 04, 2014

Almost nine months since the pork barrel scam hit the front pages, about seven months since the National Bureau of Investigation filed a complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman, and nearly five months after the Field Investigation Office filed its own complaint, the Ombudsman on Tuesday found probable cause “to indict Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr., Jose ‘Jinggoy’ Estrada, as well as Janet Lim-Napoles and a number of government employees and nongovernmental organization officers” on plunder and graft charges.

The senators are charged with plunder for allegedly pocketing astonishing sums of money from the Priority Development Assistance Fund in the three-year period between 2007 and 2009: P224.5 million in kickbacks for Revilla, P183.79 million for Estrada, and P172.8 million for Enrile. Revilla was also indicted on 16 counts of graft, Estrada on 11 counts, and Enrile on 15.

Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, was indicted on plunder, graft and malversation charges.


Perhaps getting wind of the Ombudsman’s findings, the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, called an unscheduled news conference a couple of hours before the findings were announced, to release the committee’s own conclusions. (They mirrored those of the Ombudsman.) This was unfortunate, not only because the other members of the committee had not yet signed off on the report, but also because it gave Estrada a chance to play the martyr’s card with greater drama. The conclusions of the blue ribbon committee and the Ombudsman’s findings of probable cause are part of a conspiracy, Estrada said. “It’s a very, very well synchronized April Fools’ Day operation.”


From the start, the three senators—the first sitting senators ever to be indicted on either plunder or graft charges—have described the case against them as politically motivated. Estrada and Revilla in particular have delivered privilege speeches accusing the Aquino administration of unfairly focusing on them and ignoring President Aquino’s own allies implicated in the pork barrel scam.

This is an issue that must be addressed by both the Department of Justice and ultimately by the Ombudsman; as the Ombudsman’s own press statement and executive summary phrases it, the charges announced on April 1 amount only to the “first batch of PDAF criminal cases.” At the same time, the bulk of the available evidence, both documentary and testimonial, points to the three senators. It would be rank injustice to defer the filing of charges against them merely because the second and third batches of cases are still being processed.

This is in fact the crux of the matter. Estrada and Revilla should stop playing to the gallery by raising the specter of politicization, and respond to the following, specific findings:

• That the PDAF monies were “misappropriated and converted to the personal use and benefit [of the senators] in conspiracy with Napoles and the rest of respondents.”

• That, “in fine, the PDAF-funded projects of Senators [Enrile, Estrada and Revilla] were ‘ghost’ or ‘nonexistent.’”

• That documents such as “Disbursement, Progress,


Accomplishment, Fund Utilization, Inspection, Delivery Receipts and Delivery Reports, [and] Certificates of Acceptance” were in fact “all fabricated.”

As the Ombudsman’s statement noted: “In the [three] Joint Resolutions [approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales], the [five-person] Special Panel cited the sworn statements of [Benhur] Luy and his co-whistleblowers Marina Sula and Merlina Suñas who detailed the sequence of events, the 2007-2009 Commission on Audit (COA) Report documenting the results of the special audit undertaken on PDAF disbursements, and the reports on the field verification which secured sworn statements of local government officials and the purported beneficiaries of the supposed projects which turned out to be inexistent, which pieces of evidence either remained uncontroverted by mere denials or dovetailed with the affidavits of some respondents.”

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That is a lot of evidence to respond to. With the charges filed, Enrile, Estrada and Revilla—as well as Napoles and the other respondents—now have the best possible forum to dispute their very specific charges. They now have their proverbial day in court.

TAGS: Benhur Luy, graft, Janet Lim-Napoles, Jose Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, malversation, National Bureau of Investigation, Office of the Ombudsman, plunder, pork barrel scam, pork scam, Ramon Revilla Jr.

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