Ombudsman junks Enrile, Estrada, Revilla appeal

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Thursday, June 5, 2014


MANILA (Updated) -- Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr., as well as Janet Napoles and their co-accused in the cases related to the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Morales said the motions "carry verbatim repetitions of the issues."

"Evidently, the motions for reconsideration are rehashes of the arguments previously raised by them and already resolved by this Office," she said in a joint order released on Thursday.

The Ombudsman earlier found probable cause to indict the three senators and Napoles for the crime of plunder.

Malacañang expressed hope on Thursday that the quest for truth would finally be achieved after the Ombudsman junked the motions for reconsideration by those charged with plunder in connection with the PDAF scam.

"This represents a significant step forward in the judicial process," Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement.

Since these cases were brought to public attention, Coloma said heightened citizens' awareness about corruption and wrongdoing has led the people to insist upon higher standards in public accountability.

"We hope that with sustained vigilance, the people’s quest for truth and justice will be fulfilled," he added.

"Probable cause, for purposes of filing a criminal information, refers to such facts as are sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial [and] needs only to rest on evidence showing that, more likely than not, a crime has been committed and that it was committed by the accused," the Ombudsman's joint order said.

Morales said the finding of probable cause was not based on suspicion but on the sworn complaints, testimonies of witnesses, PDAF public documents, Commission on Audit report, business ledgers, corporate papers of Napoles' NGOs, results of field verification, and admissions of some respondents themselves in their submissions.

Last April, the Ombudsman already indicted Estrada, Enrile and Revilla for allegedly channeling hundreds of millions of pesos of their PDAF allocations to fake NGOs created and controlled by Napoles for the implementation of ghost projects.

Vietnamese surveillance ship
(From left: Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada)

Enrile, Revilla and Estrada allegedly pocketed public funds through kickbacks and or commissions in the amounts of more than P172 million, P242 million and P183 million, respectively.

In the joint order pertaining to the case against Enrile and others, Morales denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Enrile, Jessica "Gigi" Lucila Reyes, Jose Antonio Evangelista II, Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover, Antonio Ortiz, Alan Javellana, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Romulo Relevo, Chita Jalandoni, Filipina Tolentino Rodriquez, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Sophia Daing Cruz, Gondelina Amata, Ofelia Ordoñez, Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Janet Lim Napoles, Jo Christine Napoles, James Christopher Napoles, Eulogio Rodriguez, Dorilyn Agbay Fabian, Nitz Cabilao, Ronald John Lim, Renato Ornopia and John Raymond de Asis.

However, Morales partially granted the motion of respondent Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, and indicted her for just one count, instead of two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The Ombudsman found out that she did not process or sign the other set of disbursement vouchers involving the Technology Resource Center, the agency to which Espiritu is connected.

In the case against Revilla and co-accused, Morales junked the motions for reconsideration filed by Revilla, Richard Cambe, Janet Lim Napoles, Ofelia Ordoñez, Francisco Figura, Ma. Ninez Guañizo, Chita Jalandoni, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Gregoria Buenaventura, Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Romulo Relevo, Ronald John Lim, Alan Javellana, Gondelina Mata, John Raymond de Asis, Sophia Cruz, Marivic Jover, Antonio Ortiz, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, and Eulogio Rodriguez.

Morales, meantime, granted the motion of respondent Romulo Relevo, and reversed the earlier finding of probable cause for four counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The ombudsman has established that he did not participate in any of the subject transactions in this case.

On the case against Estrada and his co-accused, Morales denied the motion for reconsideration filed by Estrada, Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover, Antonio Ortiz, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Sophia Daing Cruz, Gondelina Amata, Gregoria Buenaventura, Chita Jalandoni, Alan Javellana, Maria Ninez Guanizo, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Janet Napoles, and John Raymond De Asis.

However, the Ombudsman partially granted the motion of Relevo in this case, and indicted him for just one count instead of five counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, he having established that he did not process or sign the four other disbursement vouchers involving NABCOR (National Agribusiness Corporation), the agency to which Relevo is connected.

The Ombudsman is set to file anytime with the Sandiganbayan the criminal information for plunder and violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Morales denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Roman Cacal and Dennis Cunanan, as well as their respective applications for immunity from criminal prosecution.

The Ombudsman said that Mendoza, Cacal and Cunanan have not met all the qualifications to be discharged as immune witness.

"There is no absolute necessity for their respective testimonies, and there are other direct evidence available, both testimonial and documentary, for the proper prosecution of the offenses committed," the order stated.

She also junked Napoles' request for immunity for also not meeting the qualifications to become an immune witness.

"Furthermore, Napoles appears to be among the most guilty of all respondents" in these cases, stated the letter, which was in response to the letter of Napoles' counsel requesting to utilize her as state witness and grant her immunity.

Napoles' lawyer Bruce Rivera said they will file a motion for reconsideration on the request for immunity.

"But if they feel we are not telling the truth, then we cannot do anything about it," he said.

On the other hand, Morales extended immunity from criminal prosecution to whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Mary Arlene Baltazar and Simonette Briones.

Last month, Morales granted the immunity to socialite Ruby Tuason and allowed her to become a provisional state witness in connection with the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam case.

As a provisional state witness, Tuason is expected to produce documents in her possession on the details of the alleged misuse of the PDAF by the lawmakers she personally knew.

The status as a provisional state witness for Tuason is still subject to the terms and conditions in the Immunity Agreement and can be revoked again if she failed to comply with any of the provisions stated in her agreement with Morales and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

The former social secretary of then President Joseph Estrada already returned the full amount of P40 million derived from questioned transactions involving lawmakers' PDAF. However, it was clarified that Tuason's move to return huge amount to the government was not a "major consideration" in the decision.

Enrile's foe

Meanwhile, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, who engaged in a high-profile word war against Enrile, said the latest order of the Ombudsman proved that "there is a God, after all."

Last May, Santiago told the media that she was making a "bold but rules based prediction" that the various petitions by the accused would be denied by the Supreme Court.

"As a former RTC (regional trial court) judge, I take the humble opinion that the separate motions did not present any new evidence or any new argument. Therefore, like most courts do with pro forma motions for reconsideration, the Ombudsman should consider them as sham, dilatory, and frivolous," the senator said.

Santiago said that since the Ombudsman has denied the motions for reconsideration, the next step is to file the complaints in the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

"Automatically, the filing of the complaints will trigger the issuance of warrants of arrest against the three senators," she said.

Santiago told media that although the law provides that the crime of plunder is non-bailable, this provision has to be reconciled with the provision in the Constitution that all persons have a right to bail.

"The distinction is simple and easy to understand. In law, there is a difference between a right and a privilege. Every person has a right to bail, but if the person is charged with a non-bailable offense, he loses the right. Instead, the law merely gives him a privilege by giving him the chance to show at a mini-trial that evidence of guilty is not strong," she said.

"If evidence is not strong, he will be granted bail. If evidence is strong, he will be denied bail and will have to stay in a detention cell at the PNP headquarters," she added.

Santiago predicted that lawyers of the three indicted senators will run once more to the Supreme Court and may be even to other forums to delay the criminal proceedings.

"Any boasting on the part of the accused is just whistling in the dark. For example, Enrile said that he might represent himself. Everybody knows that a lawyer who represents himself is a fool," she said.

"I humbly urge the Sandigan court to conduct hearings on the motions for bail by using a summary procedure. If evidence of guilt is strong, the accused should remain in detention to prevent them from fleeing as fugitives from justice, or financing a program of terrorism to distract the public," she said.

Santiago said: "The best proof that one of the accused has used terrorist tactics to sow confusion and fear among the public is the recent obviously manufactured problems raised by the simultaneous release of the lists of pork scammers. Watch out for similar diversionary tactics," she said. (With Camille P. Balagtas/SDR/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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