ABAD TAGGED AS 'MISSING LINK' THAT COULD UNMASK PNoy AS 'PORK BARREL KING'

JUNE 10 --Brand, connection to ‘pork barrel king’ all lies — Palace. ANTI-PORK activists on Sunday said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was the “missing link” that could unmask President Benigno Aquino III as the Pork Barrel King, a charge that the Palace dismissed as a lie and a deception.
The 6.12.14 Coalition, which will mount a nationwide indignation rally on June 12, said this was the reason the President was covering up for Abad, two other Cabinet members and allied lawmakers. “Aquino, by filing cases solely against political opponents, seeks to divert the public outrage against his government and cover up his role as Pork Barrel King,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairman and co-convenor of #AbolishPork Movement. The coalition demanded that the government make public the details of the dealings between alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and Aquino’s allies. “The youth are not ignorant of the national government’s budget process. Congress legislates the budget, and the President – through Department of Budget and Management -- approves the release of funds. Therefore, we firmly believe that Secretary Abad is the missing link that would connect the pork barrel scam to the Pork King himself, President Aquino,” said Youth Act Now spokesman Victor Villanueva. “In fact, we were not surprised at all when Aquino defended Abad and several other Cabinet members involved in the scam. It is not in the interest of justice, but it’s because the President is afraid that the scam is getting too close to him for comfort,” Villanueva said. But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma waved aside the accusation. READ MORE...

ALSO: Enrile all packed for jail

JUNE 9 --HE has packed a bag and is ready to go. To jail, that is. Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday said he is ready for detention and is merely waiting for the Sandiganbayan sheriff to serve him an arrest warrant. “I’ve been prepared since several days ago. I’ve already packed up my things to bring to Camp Crame if that’s where we are going to be confined,” the Senator told reporters in an interview. “Even if I die in my cell, it’s okay,” he added. Camp Crame in Quezon City is the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police. The Office of the Ombudsman filed plunder charges against Enrile, Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles on Friday in connection with the pork barrel scam. The anti-graft court is yet to raffle off the case. Enrile, 90, said he has no plans to resist arrest since, as a lawyer, he is familiar with the legal process. He noted that it does not matter to him where he will be arrested. The senator said he has no plans to go to the Supreme Court at this stage because he would rather face the charges at the Sandiganbayan. “I was served the warrant here in the Senate in 1990. It was here in the Senate that I was arrested. The second time I was arrested was in 2001 at my house,” he told reporters.
Enrile was arrested inside the Senate premises in 1990 on charges of rebellion in connection with the December 1989 coup attempt that rocked the government of then-President Corazon Aquino. Eleven years later, he was again arrested and detained at Camp Crame in connection with the failed Malacanang siege staged by supporters of former President Joseph Estrada. Enrile welcomed the filing of the plunder complaint against them in court, saying it gives them the chance to prove their innocence. “It’s good that we are given the opportunity to use the proper forum to discharge all of these speculations, all of these charges, all of these things that are being thrown at us,” he said.READ MORE...

(ALSO) Aquino: No need for entertainer-politicians

JUNE 12 --On Independence Day, President Benigno Aquino III took a swipe at the personalities charged with plunder over the pork barrel scam. In his speech in Naga City, Aquino reminded the people not to vote for leaders who are only good for show. This, after the privilege speeches of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr received negative public reaction. "Ang hamon sa atin: Piliin ang mga kandidatong kayang ipaglaban ang interes ng bawat mamamayan, sa harap ng anumang hamon. Hindi natin kailangan ng magaling bumigkas ng script, mahusay sumayaw, o kaya magaling kumanta. Pananagutan nating mag-iwan ng mas makatarungan at mas maunlad na Pilipinas kaysa atin pong dinatnan," Aquino said. Earlier this week, the two actor-politicians delivered their own privilege speech at the Senate ahead of their possible arrest for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam. On Wednesday, Estrada assailed the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit for what he called "selective prosecution" of his case and others in the political opposition implicated in the pork barrel scam. Estrada showed a video presentation titled "Selective Justice," supposedly showing some officials' bias against him, Revilla and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile. Like his co-accused, Revilla also showed a video presentation that featured his own song "Salamat Kaibigan" during his similarly emotional speech in which he thanked his fellow senators in what many thought was his farewell message. Aquino, however, dismissed claims that the cases filed in connection with the multi-billion peso controversy were railroaded and politicized. READ MORE...

ALSO: Third batch of PDAF raps filed next week

JUNE 12 --Lawmakers and other individuals comprising the third and last batch of respondents in criminal cases being readied by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the pork barrel scam will not be charged with the non-bailable offense of plunder. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (photo) explained that they would be facing only graft and malversation charges because the amounts they had allegedly skimmed from the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund did not reach the P50-million threshold for an offense to constitute plunder. She said plunder is not applicable even if some of the projects involved were worth more than P50 million because it’s the “amount of commission or kickbacks” that defines a case. De Lima said one of the respondents is just a million pesos away from the P50-million threshold for plunder. The first batch of PDAF cases included Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who were charged with both plunder and graft. In the second batch, complaints of malversation, bribery and graft were filed against 34 individuals, including former Muntinlupa congressman and former Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon. De Lima said it took them quite long to prepare the cases for the third batch because they had to gather voluminous documents and evidence to bolster the graft cases under Republic Act 3019. “We want to make sure the cases will hurdle the ombudsman and later the Sandiganbayan,” she said in an interview at the Senate after she was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA). READ MORE...

ALSO: Sandigan raffles off cases to 3 divisions

JUNE 14 --Associate Justice Oscar Herrera holds up a number during a raffle at the Sandiganbayan to determine which divisions of the court will try the corruption cases filed against three senators. Consolidating a total of 45 cases into three based on one principal accused and their respective co-accused, the Sandiganbayan raffled off the plunder and graft complaints against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. to separate divisions of the anti-graft court yesterday morning. Enrile’s 16 cases – one plunder and 15 graft – where he and other respondents are accused of pocketing P172 million in pork barrel fund kickbacks or commissions went to the Third Division chaired by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang with Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz as members. Estrada’s 12 cases – one plunder and 11 graft – where he and fellow respondents are accused of stealing P183 million, went to the Fifth Division chaired by Associate Justice Roland Jurado with Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and a magistrate to be borrowed from other divisions of the court because of vacancy of the position. Revilla’s 17 cases – one plunder and 16 graft – where he is accused of pocketing P242 million went to the First Division chaired by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz with Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos as members. Since suspected pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles is a respondent in all the cases filed against the lawmakers, she will face charges and/or trial in all three courts. The raffle, conducted by a committee composed of the chairpersons of each Sandiganbayan division except for Associate Justice Gregory Ong who has officially inhibited from handling pork barrel fund scam-related cases, was officiated by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr. READ MORE...


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Abad tagged as ‘missing link’


Getting ready. This file photo shows Budget Secretary Florencio Abad preparing his notes before the start of the third oral arguments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program at the Supreme Court.

MANILA, JUNE 10, 2014
(MANILA STANDARD)
 By Christine F. Herrera - Brand, connection to ‘pork barrel king’ all lies — Palace.

ANTI-PORK activists on Sunday said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was the “missing link” that could unmask President Benigno Aquino III as the Pork Barrel King, a charge that the Palace dismissed as a lie and a deception.

The 6.12.14 Coalition, which will mount a nationwide indignation rally on June 12, said this was the reason the President was covering up for Abad, two other Cabinet members and allied lawmakers.

“Aquino, by filing cases solely against political opponents, seeks to divert the public outrage against his government and cover up his role as Pork Barrel King,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairman and co-convenor of #AbolishPork Movement.

The coalition demanded that the government make public the details of the dealings between alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and Aquino’s allies.

“The youth are not ignorant of the national government’s budget process. Congress legislates the budget, and the President – through Department of Budget and Management -- approves the release of funds. Therefore, we firmly believe that Secretary Abad is the missing link that would connect the pork barrel scam to the Pork King himself, President Aquino,” said Youth Act Now spokesman Victor Villanueva.

“In fact, we were not surprised at all when Aquino defended Abad and several other Cabinet members involved in the scam. It is not in the interest of justice, but it’s because the President is afraid that the scam is getting too close to him for comfort,” Villanueva said.

But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma waved aside the accusation.

“Detractors should stop misleading the public with lies and deception,” Coloma said in a text message.

“President Aquino’s decisive leadership in instituting good governance has earned the continuing trust and confidence of the Filipino people,” Coloma added.

Aquino earlier insisted that Abad is innocent until proven guilty, after Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani called for Abad’s resignation last week.

Napoles and two whistleblowers in the pork barrel case, Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas, tagged Abad as among the early conspirators in the scam.

Villanueva noted that Napoles she claimed in an affidavit submitted to the Justice Department that Abad mentored her in the practice of using bogus non-government organizations to secure government funds.

“Even in the sworn affidavits submitted by Napoles, she explained that she cannot operate without the help of those that approve the release of government funds,” Villanueva said.

“But we find the Napoles affidavit to be lacking an essential part – the details of her operations during the Aquino administration,” Villanueva added.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said despite the filing of plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan, various groups were determined to push through with protest actions on June12 as the legal actions still have not included allies of the President.

“Bayan will join the #AbolishPork movement in Liwasang Bonifacio at 3 p.m. before holding a torch march to Mendiola,” Reyes said.

He said those who have signed on for the June12 rally for accountability include the Victims Against Crime and Corruption, the Concerned Citizens Movement, the Whistleblowers Association, Youth AcT Now, Artista Kontra Korapsyon, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, the UP Faculty vs Pork as well as religious leaders Mo. Mary John Mananzan and Archbishop Oscar Cruz.

“All those involved in the scam, including allies of the President should be made accountable. The Pork Barrel King himself should be held accountable for the illegal and unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program and for the cover-up of the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam involving his allies,” Reyes said.

Crisostomo said the people’s outrage and the continuing protests against pork barrel pushed the Aquino government to file charges against several senators and accomplices involved in the pork scam.

“These past months have exposed Aquino’s role in defending the pork barrel system and covering up cases of corruption. It was revealed that Aquino already had prior knowledge about lists of those involved in the scam, which included Aquino allies like Butch Abad, (Agriculture Secretary) Proceso Alcala and key leaders of the ruling Liberal Party,” Crisostomo said.

He said the President has not abolished congressional pork and has defended his own DAP.

“Aquino has retained a trillion-peso pork fund and has covered up kickbacks amassed through anomalous Public Private Partnership deals like the MRT train bribe try,” Crisostomo said.

He said Filipinos will no longer be fooled by Aquino’s “empty anti-corruption posturing” targeting political opponents while exempting party mates and Cabinet members.

Villanueva said the youth group has launched a series of “Black Friday protests” in several cities throughout the country.

Last Friday in España Boulevard in Manila, Villanueva said members of Youth Act Now held a protest action at around 5 p.m. to call for the prosecution of everyone involved in the pork barrel scam.

“Just as we join the call for the prosecution of everyone involved in the pork barrel scam, we also call on Napoles and everyone in the know to divulge more details, especially the modus operandi of pork scammers during the Aquino administration,” Villanueva said.

“We are very close to exposing the large-scale corruption that is operating, we believe, until the very present. We should not let ourselves be blinded and stuck with Napoles’ version of the truth. For there is more to this issue than what she has already divulged,” he added.

Villanueva said Abad’s alleged involvement in the multibillion peso pork barrel and Malampaya scams takes the case one step closer to the Palace and President Aquino himself.

Villanueva also said his group would join the multi-sectoral anti-pork rally on June 12.

“On Independence Day, the youth will once again show our indignation against this corrupt government that continues to cover up its wrongdoing and pilfer billions of public funds. The youth will stop at nothing to ensure that everyone involved would be prosecuted,” Villanueva said.

“As the Aquino rule continues to be exposed as corrupt and rotten, the people’s desire to oust Aquino and change the rotten, corrupt system gains strength,” Crisostomo added. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Enrile all packed for jail June 9, 2014 11:23 pm by Jefferson Antiporda And Reina Tolentino Reporters


Who said they’re worried? Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. hug each other after Revilla’s privileged speech at the Senate on Monday. Graft charges were also filed against the three senators on Monday at the Sandiganbayan. PHOTO BY EDWIN MULI

HE has packed a bag and is ready to go. To jail, that is.

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday said he is ready for detention and is merely waiting for the Sandiganbayan sheriff to serve him an arrest warrant.

“I’ve been prepared since several days ago. I’ve already packed up my things to bring to Camp Crame if that’s where we are going to be confined,” the Senator told reporters in an interview. “Even if I die in my cell, it’s okay,” he added.

Camp Crame in Quezon City is the national headquarters of the Philippine National Police.

The Office of the Ombudsman filed plunder charges against Enrile, Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles on Friday in connection with the pork barrel scam. The anti-graft court is yet to raffle off the case.

Enrile, 90, said he has no plans to resist arrest since, as a lawyer, he is familiar with the legal process. He noted that it does not matter to him where he will be arrested.

The senator said he has no plans to go to the Supreme Court at this stage because he would rather face the charges at the Sandiganbayan.

“I was served the warrant here in the Senate in 1990. It was here in the Senate that I was arrested. The second time I was arrested was in 2001 at my house,” he told reporters.

Enrile was arrested inside the Senate premises in 1990 on charges of rebellion in connection with the December 1989 coup attempt that rocked the government of then-President Corazon Aquino.

Eleven years later, he was again arrested and detained at Camp Crame in connection with the failed Malacanang siege staged by supporters of former President Joseph Estrada.

Enrile welcomed the filing of the plunder complaint against them in court, saying it gives them the chance to prove their innocence.

“It’s good that we are given the opportunity to use the proper forum to discharge all of these speculations, all of these charges, all of these things that are being thrown at us,” he said.

Estrada, however, said he will exhaust all legal remedies available including the filing of a motion asking the Sandiganbayan for a legal determination of probable cause or suspension of the proceedings. He added that he will confer with his lawyers led by Jose Flaminiano, who also defended his father when the older Estrada was charged with plunder.

Revilla filed a similar motion on Saturday.

But the arrest of the three senators and their co-accused may be delayed because the anti-graft court is waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision on the request of the Ombudsman that a special division be created to exclusively try “pork” cases.

New charges

On Monday, the Office of the Ombudsman filed graft charges at the Sandiganbayan against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, also in connection with the alleged misuse of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

Enrile was charged with 15 counts of graft, Estrada, 11 and Revilla, 16.

Also charged with violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft Law are Napoles, Revilla’s staff Richard Cambe; John Raymund de Asis; former Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan; Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos; Rosario Nuñez; Lalaine Paule; Marilou Bare; TRC officials Antonio Ortiz, Francisco Figura, Ma. Rosalinda Lacsamana and Marivic Jover; and private individuals Myla Ogerio, Eulogio D. Rodriguez and Laarni Uy.

No hiding

Flaminiano assured that Estrada will squarely face the charges and will not go into hiding.

“We will make legal steps to clarify the situation because many are saying that they might be arrested immediately. We will file something,” he told reporter without elaborating.

“Nandiyan na iyan pero buo naman ang dibdib nila na wala silang kasalanan, haharapin niya lang [The case is there and they are determined to face it to prove that they are innocent),” the lawyer said.

Flaminiano added that he can also be a collaborating counsel for Enrile, his law school classmate and friend.

“We will answer it all [accusations], the case is too complicated. We will do all that we could to defend our clients,” he said.

Flaminiano is also the counsel of former President Gloria Arroyo, who is also facing plunder charges in connection with the alleged misuse of Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

FROM PHILSTAR

Aquino: No need for entertainer-politicians By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated June 12, 2014 - 10:26am 8 727 googleplus1 0


Senator Ramon Revilla Jr., hugged Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Jinggoy Estrada after delivering a privilege speech during plenary session on Monday afternoon. SENATE PRIB/Alex Nuevaespaña

MANILA, Philippines - On Independence Day, President Benigno Aquino III took a swipe at the personalities charged with plunder over the pork barrel scam.

In his speech in Naga City, Aquino reminded the people not to vote for leaders who are only good for show.

This, after the privilege speeches of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr received negative public reaction.

"Ang hamon sa atin: Piliin ang mga kandidatong kayang ipaglaban ang interes ng bawat mamamayan, sa harap ng anumang hamon. Hindi natin kailangan ng magaling bumigkas ng script, mahusay sumayaw, o kaya magaling kumanta. Pananagutan nating mag-iwan ng mas makatarungan at mas maunlad na Pilipinas kaysa atin pong dinatnan," Aquino said.

Earlier this week, the two actor-politicians delivered their own privilege speech at the Senate ahead of their possible arrest for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

On Wednesday, Estrada assailed the Department of Justice, the Office of the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit for what he called "selective prosecution" of his case and others in the political opposition implicated in the pork barrel scam.

Estrada showed a video presentation titled "Selective Justice," supposedly showing some officials' bias against him, Revilla and Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

Like his co-accused, Revilla also showed a video presentation that featured his own song "Salamat Kaibigan" during his similarly emotional speech in which he thanked his fellow senators in what many thought was his farewell message.

Aquino, however, dismissed claims that the cases filed in connection with the multi-billion peso controversy were railroaded and politicized.

"Sinunod natin ang tamang proseso: Nagsagawa ng imbestigasyon, nangalap at nangangalap pa ng mga ebidensiya, at ngayon ay nakasampa ng kaso," Aquino said.

"Puwede naman itong ginawa noon nang mabilisan at walang matibay na basehan upang masira ang pangalan ng mga kandidatong dawit sa kontrobersiya, pero, at kayo na po ang saksi, idinaan natin sa tamang sistema ang pagpapalabas ng katotohanan," he added.

The President said he instructed Justice Secretary Leila De Lima not to make accusations without sufficient proof.

"At pagkatapos, tayo pa ngayon ang sinasabihan na namumulitika? Kayo na hong bahalang magpasya kung sino ang papanigan niyo sa usaping ito," he said.

Third batch of PDAF raps filed next week (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 12, 2014 - 12:00am 10 268 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - Lawmakers and other individuals comprising the third and last batch of respondents in criminal cases being readied by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in connection with the pork barrel scam will not be charged with the non-bailable offense of plunder.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima (photo) explained that they would be facing only graft and malversation charges because the amounts they had allegedly skimmed from the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund did not reach the P50-million threshold for an offense to constitute plunder.

She said plunder is not applicable even if some of the projects involved were worth more than P50 million because it’s the “amount of commission or kickbacks” that defines a case.

De Lima said one of the respondents is just a million pesos away from the P50-million threshold for plunder.

The first batch of PDAF cases included Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., who were charged with both plunder and graft. In the second batch, complaints of malversation, bribery and graft were filed against 34 individuals, including former Muntinlupa congressman and former Customs commissioner Ruffy Biazon.

De Lima said it took them quite long to prepare the cases for the third batch because they had to gather voluminous documents and evidence to bolster the graft cases under Republic Act 3019.

“We want to make sure the cases will hurdle the ombudsman and later the Sandiganbayan,” she said in an interview at the Senate after she was confirmed by the Commission on Appointments (CA).

The DOJ is likely to file the appropriate charges early next week, possibly on Monday or Tuesday. She did not name those facing charges but stressed they were mentioned in the Commission on Audit (COA) special audit report for 2007 to 2009.

She also said they have yet to gather evidence against anyone linked by COA to possible anomalies before 2007.

“Otherwise, we will refer to the IAGCC,” De Lima said, referring to the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council which is composed of the ombudsman, COA and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which is under the DOJ.

“There is really an ongoing fact-finding (investigation) by IAGCC where the NBI is also a member,” she said.

De Lima added that there is an ongoing vetting on the information provided by suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and whistle-blower Benhur Luy.

She noted that some names in Luy’s list were also in Napoles’ purported lists of people who had transacted with her.

De Lima also said the three senators are free to travel outside the country until warrants for their arrest are issued.

“Are the three senators on a watchlist order?” Estrada asked De Lima during her confirmation hearing.

“No, your honor, I have not issued any watchlist order against the three senators,” De Lima said. “So it’s safe for me to travel?” Estrada asked.

To which De Lima replied, “Yes, your honor, very safe for you to travel anytime. There’s no HDO (hold departure order) yet from the Sandiganbayan and there’s no warrant of arrest yet, there’s no legal impediment.”

But Estrada clarified that he has no intention of leaving the country.

Raffling of cases tomorrow

At the Sandiganbayan, executive clerk of court and spokesman Renato Bocar said they received instructions yesterday from the Supreme Court to push ahead with the raffling tomorrow of the cases involving the three senators.

The anti-graft court had initially thought of deferring the raffling of the cases until the SC’s issuance of a decision on the ombudsman’s proposal for the creation of special courts to handle the pork barrel fund scam cases.

The SC also instructed the Sandiganbayan to comment on the ombudsman’s proposal.

The plunder and graft cases would be raffled off to four of the Sandiganbayan’s five divisions as Fourth Division Chairman Gregory Ong had offered to inhibit from the cases. – Christina Mendez, Marvin Sy, Sheila Crisostomo, Delon Porcalla, Edu Punay, Michael Punongbayan

Sandigan raffles off cases to 3 divisions By Michael Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 14, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


Associate Justice Oscar Herrera holds up a number during a raffle at the Sandiganbayan to determine which divisions of the court will try the corruption cases filed against three senators. BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines - Consolidating a total of 45 cases into three based on one principal accused and their respective co-accused, the Sandiganbayan raffled off the plunder and graft complaints against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. to separate divisions of the anti-graft court yesterday morning.

Enrile’s 16 cases – one plunder and 15 graft – where he and other respondents are accused of pocketing P172 million in pork barrel fund kickbacks or commissions went to the Third Division chaired by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang with Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Alex Quiroz as members.

Estrada’s 12 cases – one plunder and 11 graft – where he and fellow respondents are accused of stealing P183 million, went to the Fifth Division chaired by Associate Justice Roland Jurado with Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and a magistrate to be borrowed from other divisions of the court because of vacancy of the position.

Revilla’s 17 cases – one plunder and 16 graft – where he is accused of pocketing P242 million went to the First Division chaired by Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz with Associate Justices Rodolfo Ponferrada and Rafael Lagos as members.

Since suspected pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles is a respondent in all the cases filed against the lawmakers, she will face charges and/or trial in all three courts.

The raffle, conducted by a committee composed of the chairpersons of each Sandiganbayan division except for Associate Justice Gregory Ong who has officially inhibited from handling pork barrel fund scam-related cases, was officiated by Associate Justice Oscar Herrera Jr.

Tang was asked to draw a marked marble from a container similar to that used for bingo games, and was obviously not that happy to pick her division’s number as shown by the expression on her face.

“We will treat them just like the regular cases,” Tang told reporters after the raffle when asked how the Sandiganbayan plans to handle the plunder and graft complaints related to the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) anomaly.

Tang explained all the anti-graft court has been doing “is to respond to the call to speed up the resolution of all cases, not just these cases but all the pending cases already filed with the court.”

Asked why the three plunder cases and 42 graft cases were joined to form only three criminal complaints, she explained, “They are related cases, that’s why we decided to have them consolidated.”

Some Sandiganbayan officials and defense counsels observed the raffle procedure, including lawyer Jose Flaminiano who will be representing Estrada.

In an interview, Flaminiano said motions for judicial determination of probable cause like what they have already filed with the court is for the purpose of issuance of warrants of arrest.

“He stated several times, he is not going to leave the country, he is going to face the charges, considering that he has not committed any wrongdoing,” Flaminiano told reporters when asked how his client Estrada is doing.

“We believe in the integrity and impartiality of the justices of the Sandiganbayan,” he said.

Renato Bocar, the anti-graft court’s executive clerk and spokesman, said records of the cases, including criminal complaints, will be forwarded to the respective Sandiganbayan divisions.

With or without a motion for judicial determination of probable cause, Bocar said the magistrates will now review the charges for a period of 10 days and determine if there is really enough basis to proceed and issue warrants of arrest along with hold departure orders.

‘National magnitude’

On the other hand, the Supreme Court will still decide on the request of the Office of the Ombudsman to create special divisions to handle the cases.

“The raffle is without prejudice to any action the SC may take on the request,” SC spokesman Theodore Te said.

Te stressed the high court would resolve the issue of whether there is a need to create special divisions in the anti-graft court, considering it already directed all parties concerned in the cases to comment on the request.

Should the high tribunal decide to grant the request, Te said the cases against Napoles and the three senators would be transferred to the special divisions from the regular divisions they were assigned to during raffle yesterday.

Last week, the ombudsman asked the SC to create at least two special divisions in the anti-graft court, citing the “national magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and the far-reaching consequences of these cases.”

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, a retired justice of the SC, cited Article VIII Section 5 of the Constitution, which indicates that the Supreme Court has the power to “promulgate rules concerning pleading, practice and procedure in all courts.”

She said Section 3, Rule III, Part I of the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan also provides for the creation of a special division “where compelling reasons and the interest of justice so require.”

The high tribunal opted to first seek comments from the Sandiganbayan and parties in the plunder and other cases filed by the ombudsman last week before deciding on the request.

The parties include the office of the Special Prosecutor of the Ombudsman, which will handle the cases, and the camps of the accused.

Most justices of the anti-graft court, however, see no need for the creation of special divisions, according to reports.

The last time a special division of the anti-graft court was created was in January 2002 when former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada was indicted for plunder. Jinggoy Estrada was also an accused in that plunder case involving proceeds from the illegal numbers game jueteng but he was acquitted.

Lawmakers, meanwhile, urged President Aquino to order the Department of Justice to expedite the resolution of pending complaints against his allies also involved in the pork barrel fund scam.

“There is an obvious campaign of political prosecution against former members and allies of the previous administration. Let it be said that this administration that espouses the righteous path will not just persecute those who are oppositors to this administration,” Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said.

Romualdez shared the observation of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines on the seeming pattern to persecute the perceived political critics of the government.

Parañaque City Rep. Gustavo Tambunting said he is giving the government the benefit of the doubt, saying it is too early to say the charges against the opposition senators are political persecution.

“If the government doesn’t pursue cases against their allies where there is sufficient evidence, it might end up as political persecution,” he said. – Edu Punay, Paolo Romero


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