THE long wait is over. The Office of the Ombudsman has finally filed with the Sandiganbayan plunder charges against Sens. Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada.
Will this mean that we will be seeing the three behind bars next week? It doesn’t look like it; there are so many legal hurdles that the prosecution must overcome.
For instance, the accused may file a motion for judicial determination of probable cause and to hold in abeyance the issuance of a warrant of arrest or, if one has been issued, to suspend its enforcement. This is a right that is guaranteed by the Bill of Rights under the Constitution: no warrant of arrest shall be issued except upon probable cause to be determined personally by the judge. The process is summary in a sense but it could still take time.
Or they can go to the Supreme Court to question the validity of the information on some legal grounds such as grave abuse of discretion. Revilla’s lawyer has already indicated that they will do just this.
The Supreme Court may or may not restrain the issuance or the service of the warrant of arrest while the petition is pending. But I don’t think the Court will dismiss the petition without giving the accused a chance to be heard. Again, that’s part of due process.
The filing of the cases is a welcome development, both for the prosecution and the accused. In the case of the latter, they are finally afforded the chance to defend themselves and prove their innocence. In the case of the prosecution, they can no longer be accused of pussyfooting in the investigation of the plunder complaints.
We are told that this is just the first of many other cases that the Department of Justice has filed or will file. While we understand the need for the DOJ to prudently assess each case before elevating it to the next stage, the latter should, however, also understand the people’s need to see closure to this sordid chapter in our national history. And that closure can never be hand without judicial intervention.
Another question that is currently being asked is where the three senators will be detained if and when they are arrested. Already, there are snide remarks that they will in all likelihood end up in a hospital suite just like the other VIP detainees. The choice of place of detention lodges with the Sandiganbayan. If the Court believes that the accused deserves to be hospitalized, there is nothing that we could do.
We expect to see so many interesting things to happen in the next few days. My advice is for people to manage their expectations and avoid being disappointed.
I did not know that there is a columnist named Gerard Pareja until someone called my attention to a piece he wrote yesterday. I agree with him on at least one point. I am not cut for TV. But neither is Pareja, whom I have not met but whose mugshot shows a deformed version of Rolando Navarette. That should explain why TV5 offered the job to me instead of to him.
I have since given up TV newscasting, having decided to concentrate on my original love which is opinion writing. I will leave it to the public to say whether I am good at it but that should exclude Pareja, who continues to toil in obscurity as an opinion writer and whose readership can be generously placed at 20 including his mother, his boy friend and the proofreader.
Finally, unlike Pareja, who holds a dim view of TV5, I continue to hold hope that the station will succeed, at least in Cebu. All it takes is a little more leadership, that, I'm sure, Karla Kintanar Fernandez can easily provide.