Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, Napoles sued before Sandigan-A A +A
Friday, June 6, 2014
MANILA (Updated) -- Plunder charges were filed before the Sandiganbayan on Friday against businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. and other respondents in connection with the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The Ombudsman's Office of the Special Prosecutor arrived at the anti-graft court before 3 p.m. Friday for the filing of the charges, after the investigating body denied the respondent's motions for reconsideration.
The cases will be raffled separately next Friday.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales denied Thursday the motions for reconsideration of the accused, citing there no new arguments from their motions.
Morales said the finding of probable cause was based on sworn complaints, testimonies of witnesses, PDAF public documents, Commission on Audit report, business ledgers, corporate papers of Napoles’ non-government organizations (NGOs), results of field verification, and admissions of some respondents themselves in their submissions.
'Jail cells for 3 senators'
Also in Friday, Malacañang clarified that it did not order the police to prepare the detention centers for the three senators, who could be arrested anytime for allegedly pocketing their multi-million peso PDAF.
"I don't think so. I remember them saying that it coincided with the current issues that they were fixing up -- I think some of their facilities," said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte in a media briefing.
The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group reportedly has prepared the supposed detention cells for Senators Estrada, Enrile and Revilla Jr., who could be ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan anytime after the Office of the Ombudsman denied their motions for reconsideration on their plunder raps.
Valte said it would be the anti-graft court, which will determine where the three senators could be detained.
The Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) said it is ready to implement the court order once the anti-graft court issues the arrest warrants.
Director Benjamin Magalong said PNP-CIDG will be the lead unit that will serve the warrants of arrest on three accused senators.
Chief Superintendent Reuben Theodore Sindac, PNP spokesperson, said the PNP has a custodial center for "high risk" detainees in Camp Crame.
Meanwhile, Senate President Franklin Drilon warned those who will be arresting Senators Estrada, Enrile and Revilla not to make the arrest inside the Senate premises specifically inside the session hall.
In an interview, Drilon said three of his colleagues facing plunder charges expressed willingness to submit themselves without resistance, as he expressed belief that they will not go into hiding.
The three senators, Drilon said, know their legal rights and he expects them to avail themselves of the legal remedies provided under the Constitution.
Drilon said since the case has already reached the Sandiganbayan, it is expected that they will be temporarily barred from performing their tasks as lawmakers specifically if the Ombudsman will recommend the filing of suspension, which he said is already expected.
The Senate chief said the accused senators can avail themselves of legal remedies such as bail, which can only be denied if the evidence is strong.
In a statement, Drilon said he is hoping for a speedy trial so that the innocent would be cleared and freed, and the guilty punished and jailed.
"The Senate will abide by the process in accordance with the Constitution and our laws. We will abide by any orders to be issued by the Sandiganbayan," he said.
The Senate leader also assured that the development will not impair the chamber from enacting legislation that "will provide jobs, combat poverty and strengthen anti-graft measures."
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said her department and the whistleblowers were "very pleased" with the indictment of Napoles and the three senators in relation to the scam.
"Of course, we are very pleased about this development. Inaasahan naman po talaga natin na isusustain ng Ombudsman yung finding talaga nila ng probable cause and i-deny yung motions for reconsideration dahil kumbinsidong kumbinsido naman po talaga tayo na may probable cause," she told reporters.
She said the filing of plunder case against Napoles before the Sandiganbayan will not affect the evaluation of her two affidavits, which drag other senators and congressmen and members of the Aquino administration into the anomaly.
"Walang epekto yun. Kasi ang pinaka-objective ng vetting namin is precisely to find out kung alin dyan ang mga totoong alegasyon ni Mrs. Napoles," De Lima said.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has been tasked by De Lima to secure the documents that will support Napoles’ claims.
Senator Estrada said the decision doesn't come to them as a surprise anymore, with Ombudsman Morales announcing that she had denied the grant of immunity for Napoles as well as the motions for reconsideration he filed and the two other senators.
Estrada belittled the Ombudsman's proceedings on his plunder charge. He said they will go to the Supreme Court to ask for a review of the case.
"That was all a moro-moro. It was so clear that this was their intention all along. Since it was denied, definitely, that will go with the plan to have us arrested and jailed from the start," he said.
The denial orders from Morales came despite the motions for certiorari of at least two senators before the Supreme Court.
Morales junked the motion for reconsideration and the immunity pleas filed by the three senators and the other respondents in the plunder case filed against them due to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Morales' denial of petitions came in three separate Joint Orders dated June 4, 2014.
For his part, Revilla said he never expected the Ombudsman to rule in his favor.
"I already expected that decision. She intended to charge us all along, and didn’t even bother to read our motions," he said.
Enrile has yet to comment on the Ombudsman's decision, but earlier denied involvement in the alleged anomaly.
While denying Napoles her petition for immunity, Morales granted immunity from criminal prosecution to witnesses Benhur Luy, Marina Sula, Merlina Suñas, Mary Arlene Baltazar and Simonette Briones. (With Virgil Lopez/SDR/Camille P. Balagtas/Third Anne Peralta/Sunnex)