Plunder, graft cases vs 3 senators raffled off
3 separate divisions to handle cases vs JPE, Bong, Jinggoy
MANILA (UPDATED) - The Sandiganbayan on Friday morning raffled off the plunder and graft complaints filed by the Office of the Ombudsman against the three senators over the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
The anti-graft court consolidated all 45 criminal information they received -- 42 of which are graft and 3 plunder.
The plunder case and 15 graft cases of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile will be handled by the Sandiganbayan's 3rd division, chaired by Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang.
The plunder case and 11 graft cases of Senator Jinggoy Estrada will be handled by the 5th division, chaired by Associate Justice Roland Jurado.
The plunder case and 16 graft cases of Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr., meanwhile, will be handled by the anti-graft court's 1st division, chaired by Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz.
The cases against alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles will also be handled by the three divisions since she is a co-accused.
According to Cabotaje-Tang, they decided to consolidate all the cases to make matters simpler since the graft cases are anchored on the plunder complaints.
Fourth division chairman Associate Justice Gregory Ong inhibited himself from the raffle due to his supposed link to Napoles.
The Sandiganbayan has 10 days to determine probable cause on the cases filed.
But Sandiganbayan spokesperson Renato Bocar said the 10 days may not be enough since the cases are "complicated."
Estrada's lawyer, Atty. Jose Flaminiano, also expects some delay in the issuance of warrants of arrest since the justices have to review a "truckload of evidence."
Meanwhile, the anti-graft court will submit by Monday its comment on the creation of special courts to exclusively handle the pork barrel scam cases.
If the Supreme Court (SC) decides to create special divisions, the raffled cases will just be transferred.
Aside from the three senators and Napoles, also facing plunder charges are Revilla's staff Richard Cambe, Estrada's former staff Pauline Labayen, Enrile's former chief of staff Jessica "Gigi" Reyes, Ronald John Lim, and John Raymund de Asis.
Also charged with graft, meanwhile, are Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, and heads of implementing agencies who were allegedly involved in the misuse of pork barrel funds. -- Reports from Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News; Johnson Manabat, dzMM