Sandiganbayan justice asked to explain Napoles link-A A +A
Thursday, October 17, 2013
SANDIGANBAYAN Associate Justice Gregory Ong and four lawyers were ordered by the Supreme Court on Thursday to comment within 10 days regarding their supposed link to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles.
Whistleblower Marina Sula claimed in a Senate hearing last month that Ong visited Napoles' office while lawyers Mark Oliveros, Edita Talaboc, Raymond Tansip and Joshua Lapuz notarized the articles of incorporation of the businesswoman’s fake non-government organizations (NGOs).
These NGOs, in turn, were allegedly used by some lawmakers to implement ghost projects using the priority development assistance fund (PDAF). Government officials including three senators and Napoles are now facing plunder suits before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the scam.
One of the senators charged with plunder is Senator Jinggoy Estrada, who was flanked by Ong and Napoles in a photograph posted by online news outlet Rappler. Ong, however, said Estrada is his friend since 1994, or four years before his appointment to the anti-graft court.
The photo was taken during Estrada’s birthday celebration either in 2012 or 2013, said Ong in his letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dated September 26. Estrada turned 50 last February 17, months before the controversy hogged the headlines.
"Be that as it may, it is undisputed, however that I was standing to the right of Senator Estrada to have my picture taken with him. I have no control whether other guests (like Napoles) would also want to be photographed with us," Ong said.
Incidentally, Ong sided with the Sandiganbayan ruling in 2010 that acquitted Napoles in the malversation cases filed against her over the military’s anomalous purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets in 1998.
"[T]he court was mandated to decide those cases, as in fact, it did decide those cases purely on the merits based only on the applicable laws and the facts presented and proved during the proceedings, and not on any other consideration which have no relevance thereto," said Ong, chairman of the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division.
Ong recently vied for the position of Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice but lost to Associate Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang, who only joined the court last year. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)