Minority to Ombudsman: Finish probe by Christmas
MANILA - Minority lawmakers are urging Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to finish the preliminary investigation of the pork barrel scam case by Christmas, noting that the Ombudsman only needs to establish if probable cause exists.
House Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora said the complaints against lawmakers and other personalities in connection with the priority development assistance fund scam should be resolved by Christmas this year.
"Di dapat tumagal ito ng Pasko. Tandaan natin di ito bagong kaso. Di ito naghahanap kayo ng bagong ebdidensya. Katakot-takot na ang nagsasalita, napakarami na ang dokumentong nakita niyo. Pag di pa ito probable cause ano ibig sabihin ng probable cause?" he asked.
The lawmakers said the Ombudsman only needs to validate the findings of probable cause of the Justice Department, instead of starting an investigation from scratch.
A total of 38 individuals including 3 incumbent senators are included in the plunder and malversation cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Morales earlier said it will take about a year to finish the preliminary investigation of the pork barrel scam case.
Zamora said the Ombudsman does not need to read all 1 million pages of documentary evidence and annexes submitted by the DOJ.
He said they will grill the sponsors of the budgets of the Justice Department and Ombudsman on these matters when their budgets are tackled during the plenary deliberations of the 2014 budget.
"We have an interest in this case. We want to make sure not only are the guilty punished but the innocent absolved as soon as possible... Medyo nagtataka kami kung bakit nagbigay na figure 1 year. Unang-una, hindi ba Department of Justice dumaan na din sa parehong parehong proseso so what are we talking about? We're at the stage of determining probable cause. Probable cause you're not trying to determine guilt or innocence beyond reasonable doubt. Anong hinahanap mo lang kung merong kasong pwede ilabas sa isang tao dahil mukha siya ay may kasalalanan," he said.
1BAP party-list Rep. Silvestre Bello, a former Justice Secretary, added: "Probable cause means crime has been committeed and the person charged is probably guilty. Talagang very surprising yung sinabi ni Ombudman Morales isang taon. In effect, they are only affriming or validating findings of the DOJ."
The budget of the justice department is scheduled for plenary deliberations at the House on Thursday . the Judiciary's and Ombudsman's budget are scheduled for next week.
ACT TEACHERS party-list Rep. Antonio Tinio said there seemed to be no coordination among the heads of the DOJ, Ombudsman and Commission on Audit "especially if the Ombudsman starts from scratch."
For his part, Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate said more lawmakers should face charges over the pork barrel scam. He noted that the COA report mentioned 82 NGOs but the complaints only centered on lawmakers who gave pork barrel funds to NGOs linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.
Meanwhile, the minority lawmakers are also urging the Ombudsman to ask the Court of Appeals to freeze the assets of lawmakers implicated in the pork barrel scam.
Currently, the Justice Department has only asked for a freeze on the assets of Janet Lim Napoles.
Kabataan party-list Rep. Terry Ridon said the Ombudsman can seek a 20-day freeze on the assets of lawmakers from the apellate court without filing a criminal complaint.
"Sa aktuwal nga ho dapat naisip na nila yun lahat ng dapat ma-freeze dapat mahabol. Pati personal properties pwede masubject to freeze order...Baka nagdissipate mga assets ng senador, congressman," he said.