Pork scam may lead to plunder raps vs lawmakers

Posted at 09/06/2013 9:57 PM | Updated as of 09/06/2013 10:57 PM

MANILA - The pork barrel scam involving billions of pesos worth of public funds will most likely lead to plunder charges for those implicated, lawyers say.

The law on plunder is severe.

The crime, which involves illegally using public funds in the amount of P50 million or more, is punishable by life imprisonment.

Such was the case with former President Joseph Estrada.

The same fate awaits senators or congressmen who may be charged with plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam.

"Maari syang managot ng plunder," said lawyer Romulo Macalintal. "P50 million and above, at iyan ay non-bailable."

There is another possible case that erring legislators may be charged with, for less amount of money used illegally.

Malversation of public funds due to negligence is an even stricter law.

Recently the Cabunalan mayor was arrested for just P14,000.

A congresswoman from Cebu was also arrested for P10 million in public funds allegedly used illegally.

"Dito mas madaling patunayan. Ang amount involved dito ay P22,000 lamang," Macalintal said.

For the defense of alleged forgery of signatures of some of the accused legislators, former Solicitor-General Joel Cadiz says this alone may be a long shot.

"Saan nanggaling yung pamemeke? Kung maipakita po na itong mga pamemeke, supposed to be ay galing din sa sarili nilang staff o sa sarili nilang opisina. Eh malakas pong ebidensya ito. Marami pong lalabas dahilan na ganito, pero uusad po ang hustisya," he said.

"Maaring sabihing forgery pero kung napakalaking halaga naman halimbawa P200 million o kaya P17 million, ang ibig mong sabihin ganun na lamang if you fail to perform an act to safeguard the funds of the government, eh kung sinabi mong naforge ka, aba eh bakit mo napabayaan? Ano pa ang silbi mo bilang isang government official kung pinapayagan mo palang maforge ang iyong signature," Macalintal said.

There are opinions also saying that the findings of the Commission on Audit alone may also be insufficient for filing charges.

"Meron pa naman pong ibang mga records, yung mga testimonial whistleblowers," Cadiz said.

"Syempre ang sasabihin ng whistleblowers, heto po ang ginawa ni Janet Napoles. Ang sasabihin lang naman ni Miss Napoles ay hindi ko po ginawa iyan. Mamimili po ang huwes eh, kung sino ang nagsasabi ng totoo at sa normal na takbo ng hustisya, dapat po katotohanan yung nagsabi na ito po ang ginawa niya," he explained - ANC