SENATORS indicted for plunder and graft in the pork barrel scam agreed that the Office of the Ombudsman's proposal to create special divisions at the Sandiganbayan that would try and decide on cases would be unfair to all accused.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile said that the purpose of assignment of cases through raffle is to "enhance the appearance of independence and integrity of those who preside over the cases," unlike in a special division where the justices are handpicked by the Supreme Court (SC).
"Worse, considering the highly charged and biased environment prevailing in regard these cases, and that the request is made by the Ombudsman, the impression that may be created is that the Supreme Court has now joined the clamor for the condemnation and punishment of those involved in the so called PDAF cases, including the accused in the case," he said.
Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. found the Ombudsman’s request “plainly discriminatory and unwarranted.”
"To warrant a treatment different from the rest, there must first and foremost be a valid classification based on real and substantial classification. This classification must not be merely imaginary or whimsical. This classification must not be imaginary or whimsical,” the senator said.
Noting that the Ombudsman has been biased against him even at the start of the preliminary investigation, Revilla said he can only surmise that the “same bias and prejudice” of the Ombudsman towards him attend the latter’s request with the SC.
The Ombudsman should have addressed the matter to the Sandiganbayan en banc first, which may request or recommend to the SC the creation of a special division, said Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
He also raised the issue of equal protection and right to due process.
"The creation of special divisions with handpicked members raises 'due process' concerns as it departs from established rules, procedure, and practice of the Sandiganbayan, and deprives Senator Estrada of the procedural protection of a raffle of the cases among existing divisions which excludes deliberate choice of who will sit in judgment in the cases against him," the comment stated.
The Sandiganbayan has opposed the creation of special divisions, saying this will be unfair for the accused in the cases and other "equally important" cases being handled by the justices.
Three divisions at the Sandiganbayan are handling the cases in relation to the lawmakers’ diversion of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) of businesswoman Janet Napoles in exchange for multi-million peso kickbacks.
Estrada and Revilla are now detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City while the Sandiganbayan Third Division has yet to issue an arrest warrant against Enrile. (Sunnex)