Napoles, 3 senators to be charged before Sandigan

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Plunder cases can be filed anytime now before the Sandiganbayan against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Napoles.

In a statement, the Ombudsman said, "The Office is set to file with the Sandiganbayan the criminal Informations for Plunder and violations of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act."

Through 3 separate joint orders issued on Wednesday, June 4, the Ombudsman denied the motions for reconsideration (MRs) of the 3 senators, Napoles, and other suspects in the scam. 

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales found that the motions “carry verbatim repetitions of the issues and claims” already argued by the senators in their counter-affidavits. 

“Evidently, the motions for reconsideration are rehashes of the arguments previously raised by them and already resolved by this Office,” read the joint orders. 

The Ombudsman earlier greenlighted the indictment of the 3 senators and Napoles, but appeals for judicial review on the Ombudsman's finding of probable cause were filed.

With the denial of the appeals, the 3 senators can now be charged for allegedly pocketing a total of P597 million in kickbacks and commissions from their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF).

According to the Ombudsman, Revilla got the biggest kickback worth P224 million, followed by Estrada with P183 million, and Enrile with P172 million.

The multi-billion-peso PDAF scam is the biggest corruption scandal in recent Philippine history. NGOs associated with Napoles were allegedly used as beneficiaries on paper to siphon off lawmakers' PDAF. (READ: Pork tales and Navigating the PDAF scam affidavits)

Finding of probable cause final

The Ombudsman found probable cause against the 3 senators and Napoles based on sworn complaints, testimonies of witnesses, the Commission on Audit (COA) special report, business ledgers, corporate papers of Napoles’ non-governmental organizations (NGOs), results of field verification, and some admissions in their submissions before the anti-graft body.  

In a statement, the Ombudsman said the aforementioned pieces of evidence are "sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that a crime has been committed and the respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial."

The joint orders also found no violation of the right to procedural process. The Ombudsman said the respondents were given an opportunity to be heard which they availed of by filing their motions for reconsideration, and the requesting respondents were provided with copies of the requested counter-affidavits. The Office also said the manner of the service of the order to file counter-affidavit was compliant with Rule 13, Section 6 of the Rules of Court.

Revilla and Estrada earlier filed petitions before the Supreme Court to stop the probe at the Ombudsman, arguing that the anti-graft body denied them due process in failing to give them copies of the affidavits and evidence submitted against them. (READ: SC to 'pork' scam probers: Comment on Jinggoy's plea)

The Special Panel conducting the preliminary investigation is composed of Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer IV (GIPO IV) M.A. Christian Uy as chairperson, with GIPO II Francisca Serfino, GIPO II Ruth Laura Mella, GIPO II Anna Francesca Limbo, and GIPO I Jasmine Ann Gapatan as members. 

Others to be charged

Also approved for indictment are key individuals tagged by whistleblowers as having dealt with Napoles: Enrile's chief of staff Jessica Lucila Reyes, Estrada's appointments staff Pauline Therese Mary Labayen, and Revilla's chief political staff Richard Cambe.

Napoles’ driver-bodyguard John Raymond de Asis, listed as an official of Kaupdanan para sa Magsasaka Foundation Incorporation, and her nephew John Ronald Lim, listed as an official of Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Incorporated, are also set to be charged. 

In the 66-page joint order pertaining to the case against Enrile, Morales also denied the MRs of the following: Jose Antonio Evangelista II, Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover, Antonio Ortiz, Alan Javellana, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Romulo Relevo, Chita Jalandoni, Filipina Tolentino Rodriquez, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Sophia Daing Cruz, Gondelina Amata, Ofelia Ordoñez, Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Janet Lim Napoles, Jo Christine Napoles, James Christopher Napoles, Eulogio Rodriguez, Dorilyn Agbay Fabian, Nitz Cabilao, Ronald John Lim, Renato Ornopia.

In the 55-page joint order pertaining to the case against Revilla, Morales also denied the MRs filed by Ofelia Ordoñez, Francisco Figura, Ma. Ninez Guañizo, Chita Jalandoni, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Gregoria Buenaventura, Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Romulo Relevo, Ronald John Lim, Alan Javellana, Gondelina Mata, Sophia Cruz, Marivic Jover, Antonio Ortiz, Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, and Eulogio Rodriguez.

In the 45-page joint order pertaining to the case against Estrada, Morales likewise denied the motions for reconsideration filed by Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover, Antonio Ortiz, Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Sophia Daing Cruz, Gondelina Amata, Gregoria Buenaventura, Chita Jalandoni, Alan Javellana, Maria Ninez Guanizo, Maria Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule, Marilou Bare, Janet Napoles, and John Raymond De Asis. – Rappler.com