Sereno: Avoid shortcuts to justice in PDAF scam

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Thursday, June 12, 2014


AMID the political noise due to the pork barrel scam, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno reminded the public on Thursday not to take shortcuts to make those who have allegedly plundered the nation's coffers accountable.

Speaking at the 116th Independence Day celebration in Kawit, Cavite, Sereno said the country will get through the controversy by following the rule of law.

"Naiintidihan ko na marami na ang naiinip at gusto na ng aksyon. Ngunit hindi ganoon kasimple ang proseso dahil pinili natin na magpasailalim tayo sa tinatatawag na rule of law," the chief justice said.

She said the Constitution spells out the powers of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Office of the Ombudsman, the agencies tasked to safeguard taxpayer's money and run after those who have misused it.

Sereno added the Anti-Money Laundering Act has been used to freeze the assets of alleged scam mastermind Janet Napoles and the Rules of Court provide guidelines on how an accused can be turned state witness and if the supposed list of individuals implicated in the scam can be categorized as mere hearsay.

The Bill of Rights, meanwhile, assures all the accused in the cases of due process.

"Alam din natin na ang batayan sa paghatol ng mga korte sa mga naaakusahan ng krimen gaya ng plunder o kurapsiyon ay proof beyond reasonable doubt. Ito ay hindi nawawala sa isipan ng mga piskal at Ombudsman sa kanilang pag-iimbestiga at pagsasampa ng kaso, kaya dapat masusi ang paghahagilap ng ebidensiya at hindi pwedeng kahit sino na lang ay kasuhan," she said before a crowd which gathered outside the mansion of the late President Emilio Aguinaldo, who declared the country's independence from the Spaniards in his balcony on June 12, 1898.

Sereno also asked the Ombudsman, Department of Justice (DOJ) and COA to do their jobs responsibly so that all efforts put into the investigation and prosecution of pork barrel scam cases will not be put to waste.

"Iwasan natin ang mga shortcuts upang magkaroon ng saysay at tagumpay ang lahat ng ating mga pagkilos. Sa ganitong paraan lamang natin masasabi na ang rule of law ang nananaig sa pagresolba natin sa mga malalalim na problema ng lipunan at pamahalaan," she said.

In San Juan, Senate President Franklin Drilon appealed to the people to keep their faith in their democratic institutions such as the Senate, where three of its members are facing plunder and graft cases at the Sandiganbayan because of the scam.

"Let us be more discerning. Let us not allow some quarters to dishonor our institutions, because the lack of respect for our democratic institutions only dishonor the memory of the brave and selfless Filipinos who valiantly fought the foreign colonizers to liberate our country, thus giving birth to Asia's first democracy," he said at the historic Pinaglabanan Shrine.

He believes that the "relentless search" for truth and justice is a cleansing process that will strengthen the Senate.

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. said they are prepared to go to jail while maintaining innocence over the cases allegedly concocted by the Aquino government to put down its potential foes in the 2016 presidential elections.

The government has denied the allegation as it advised the three senators to just face charges that they channelled hundreds of millions of pesos of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake non-government organizations (NGOs) created and controlled by Napoles for the implementation of ghost projects in previous years. (Sunnex)

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