MANILA, Philippines - Insisting on their innocence in the pork barrel scam, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. yesterday rejected calls spreading online for them to resign.
The senators also dared the Department of Justice (DOJ) to make public a list prepared by alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles purportedly containing the names of other lawmakers and officials involved in the scam.
“Let us wait and see if we will be found guilty… I leave my fate to God… I will accept the judgment,” Revilla said as he condemned the resignation call as trial by publicity.
He said the controversy has left him weary but hopeful that the truth would prevail regarding allegations that he had embezzled his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) in connivance with Napoles. PDAF is how the congressional pork barrel is officially called.
Estrada said resigning at this point is tantamount to disregarding the mandate given to him by the people. He stressed he “cannot abandon” the 18 million Filipinos who voted for him.
“How did they know that we are guilty?” Enrile said, referring to those calling for their resignation.
Senate President Franklin Drilon showed sympathy to the three senators, saying “resignation is a matter of personal choice.”
“Remember that these three colleagues of mine have their mandate. We cannot simply pass a resolution expelling them. That is not the process. The resignation is a matter of personal decision on their part,” Drilon said.
Sen. Vicente Sotto III, who is part of the minority bloc, called the resignation calls “unfair.”
“That’s unfair. How can you be dictated by an online petition? That’s unfair. They (senators) are not even proven guilty,” Sotto said.
He said that while many so-called netizens were responsible individuals, some were paid hacks bent on destroying others. “A few bad apples destroy the whole box,” Sotto said.
But Senate Majority Leader Alan Cayetano insisted Enrile, Estrada and Revilla should resign if they wish to help save the Senate’s integrity as an institution.
“That’s why I have been saying to the three of our colleagues you just say that you will explain this to the courts – either you resign, either you help the institution recover by removing yourself from the institution,” Cayetano said.
He said it’s either the three senators resign, “or you explain to the satisfaction of the public through the media, so that people can see if you’re not guilty.”
Show list now
Estrada and Revilla stressed that only by releasing the list would the DOJ satisfy the public’s demand for the truth.
“Well, the list should be made public so that the truth will prevail. They should show the list. It has been mentioned, so might as well show it to the people, tell the people the truth. The truth should come out,” Revilla said.
Estrada expressed apprehension that the list might be sanitized before it is released to the public. “They might be sanitizing it, I do not know why they are keeping it from the public,” Estrada said.
“I do not know the agenda of the Department of Justice. I really do not know. For the good of the public and for the good of the Senate and Congress in general, I hope that they release the alleged list given to her (Justice Secretary Leila de Lima) by Mrs. Napoles, if there is any,” Estrada added.
Enrile downplayed the existence of the list. “It does not matter to me whether there is a list or not,” he said.
Meanwhile, Revilla’s former chief of staff Richard Cambe has asked the Supreme Court to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from proceeding with the filing of criminal cases against him in the Sandiganbayan.
In a 29-page petition, Cambe asked the SC to nullify the ombudsman’s March 14 joint order finding probable cause to charge him with the non-bailable offense of plunder and with 16 counts of violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Cambe alleged that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the joint order after denying without even reading his motion to suspend proceedings.
He noted that the ombudsman tackled and resolved issues that were not even raised in his motion.
He explained that the notices of disallowances that Revilla’s office received from the Commission on Audit (COA) were not yet final and executory and therefore could not be used as proof that an anomaly had occurred.
Cambe cited Section 48 of Presidential Decree No. 1445 or the Government Auditing Code of the Philippines, which provides that “any person aggrieved by the decision of an auditor of any government agency in the settlement of an account or claim may within six months... appeal in writing to the Commission on Audit.”
He stressed that a final and executory order from COA is necessary before the National Bureau of Investigation and the ombudsman’s field investigation office (FIO) can file complaints, otherwise the charges “are dismissible for being premature or at the very least the proceedings should be suspended pending finality of the notices of disallowance.”
Cambe recounted that FIO’s complaint stemmed from COA findings that the PDAF of Revilla for 2007 to 2009 amounting to P517 million was released to Technology Resource Center, National Livelihood and Development Corp. (NLDC) and National Agri-Business Corp. (NABCOR)
In turn, the three implementing agencies transferred the PDAF releases to non-government organizations believed to be controlled by Napoles.
Before the FIO complaint, the NBI filed a similar complaint with the ombudsman on Sept. 16 last year against Revilla for his allegedly conspiring with Cambe and other individuals in skimming some P224 million from projects financed through PDAF.
Cambe said Revilla’s office received from COA four notices of disallowance last Jan. 14 involving certain amounts released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to TRC under a Special Allotment Release Order (SARO).
On Feb. 14, Revilla’s office again received eight notices of disallowance involving certain amounts released by DBM to NLDC under SARO.
“Accordingly, petitioner has six months to appeal the notices of disallowance reckoned from Jan. 14, 2014 for the TRC-related and from Feb. 4, 2014 for the NLDC-related. Petitioner shall definitely appeal as he has nothing to do with the so-called PDAF or pork barrel scam, and his signatures in the PDAF documents were all forgeries,” Cambe stated in his petition.
Cambe added that the filing of the administrative or criminal action against him should be made only if he fails to comply with the COA order of execution with finality.
“When the ombudsman resolved petitioner’s motion without reading it she arbitrarily and despotically exercised her discretion with so much grave abuse that could only be seen as an internal violation of the petitioner’s basic constitutional right to due process and manifest display of injustice and oppression against the petitioner, making the proceedings a case of persecution rather than prosecution,” Cambe’s petition read. Jess Diaz, Edu Punay