No arrest warrants yet

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Wednesday, June 11, 2014


ONE of the respondents in the multi-billion-peso plunder case filed recently with the Sandiganbayan, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., delivered a privilege speech on the matter the other day. Some reports described it as a “farewell speech” of sorts considering that those charged are headed for jail stints soon when warrants of arrest are issued against them.

The other senator charged with plunder, Jinggoy Estrada, will also deliver his privilege speech, the third since the issue on the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam erupted. He timed it for the last day of Senate sessions before its month-long break.

So it’s possible the next Senate sessions won’t no longer have Estrada, Revilla and the third senator charged, Juan Ponce Enrile, that is, if the Sandiganbayan finally issues the awaited warrants. Then again, that may not happen considering recent developments.

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The Sandiganbayan yesterday refused to raffle off the cases lodged by the Office of the Ombudsman last week against businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the three senators and some of their aides following the request by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for the Supreme Court (SC) to create two special divisions that would try the PDAF cases.

"Dahil may pending request ang Ombudsman na special courts, at bilang respeto na rin ng Sandiganbayan sa Korte Suprema, 'di na muna magsasagawa ang Sandiganbayan ng special raffle ng mga kasong ito," said lawyer Renato Bocar, the temporary spokesperson of the Sandiganbayan for the pork barrel scam-related cases.

So Napoles and the three senators will be free for the meantime as the SC looks into Morales’s request. SC spokesman Theodore Te told reporters yesterday that the Court has requested the Sandiganbayan and “all the parties” (including those charged) to comment on Morales’s suggestion “within the non-extendable period of three days from notice.”

The SC will no doubt speed up the resolution of Morales’s request. But even the speeding up could mean days or a week or even weeks. So the three senators and some of their aides won’t join Napoles, who is already in jail, any time soon.

Add to that the deliberation on motions being filed by the respondents with the Sandiganbayan and the SC. Those motions are meant to further delay the issuance of the warrants of arrest. But that is what lawyers love to call “due process.” There’s nothing we can do about it.

Still, I like the idea of having two special courts try the PDAF scam cases.

Indeed, the scam, as Morales noted, is national in magnitude and has far-reaching consequences, especially on governance. Besides, more than 100 present and former lawmakers alone may end up being charged. They all are capable of fighting a protracted legal battle.

Having two special courts to tray the PDAF scam cases is no guarantee, though, that the legal proceedings won’t drag forever. It would be difficult, for example, to prevent the respondents from doing legal maneuvers that would delay the resolution of the cases.

Public pressure is a big help against this. The problem is that those battling the pork barrel system have their own ideological, political and personal agenda. Many of them are, therefore, not contented with merely exerting pressure on the courts and the prosecution to speed up the filing of the PDAF scam cases and their eventual resolution.

I am thus interested on what views organizers of the Independence Day anti-pork protest action will articulate. Will they help put the PDAF mess in perspective or will they further muddle the discussion?

(khanwens@gmail.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on June 11, 2014.

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