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2 sets of pork cases up

Each batch lists new names of lawmakers

THE Justice Department said Friday it will soon file two new batches of graft complaints against other lawmakers implicated in the P10 billion pork barrel scam allegedly perpetrated by Janet Lim-Napoles.

“It’s a new batch and the only common person is Mrs. Napoles and the implementing agencies,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said.

said each new batch would include new names of lawmakers involved.

The first batch of complaints included three opposition lawmakers, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., leading to accusations that the administration was being selective in its prosecution.

De Lima said officials of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Justice Department, through Undersecretary Jose Justiniano, had a meeting earlier this week to discuss the next batches of respondents to be charged.

“We conducted an inventory to determine which cases can now be filed next. We are looking at two sets of respondents,” De Lima said.

De Lima declined to identify who the new respondents are.

She also declined to say when the third batch of complaints would be filed with the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Ombudsman this week rcommended the prosecution of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla Jr. for plunder, in connection with the pork barrel scam.

The Ombudsman has yet to resolve two other batches of government fund-related complaints filed last year by the Justice Department and the NBI.

One batch is still connected with the PDAF scam while the other concerns the alleged diversion of Malampaya gas funds to the so-called Napoles non-government organizations (NGOs).

De Lima lauded a Manila court order to freeze the assets of Napoles, her relatives and her NGOs.

She said the Anti-Money Laundering Council will also work on the forfeiture of the assets of other personalities implicated in the pork barrel scam, but she declined to name the targets.

The Palace on Friday declined to say if it agreed with Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago’s view that the senators charged in the pork barrel scam go on leave.

“It is something that the senators themselves, as a body, should discuss. We would rather not comment on a separate branch of government,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda.

In the House, Gabriela party-list Rep. Luz Ilagan said Enrile, Estrada and Revilla could ask the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, to put them under the Senate’s protective custody so they could continue to fulfill their responsibilities as senators while their trial was ongoing.

This, she said, was the same privilege given to her allies, the so-called Batasan 5 led by then Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo when the Justice Department filed a rebellion case against Ocampo’s group and 49 others on May 12, 2006.

“I would not call it leniency or special treatment but the senators have the option to seek custody from the Senate leadership while undergoing trial. This will allow them to continue carrying out their

duties as legislators, after all, they are not yet convicted. Besides they were elected by the people to serve, and serve they must,” Ilagan said.

Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz, a member of the independent minority bloc, agreed, saying the three senators should be presumed innocent until proven otherwise.

“They are just about to be indicted and not convicted so they should be given due courtesy by their own peers. Indictment does not take away their basic rights to due process and presumption of innocence,” Dela Cruz said.

But House Deputy Majority Leader and Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list Rep. Sherwin Tugna said the proposal of Ilagan and Dela Cruz was tantamount to giving special treatment to the three senators and violated the constitutional principle of equal protection under the law.

On Tuesday, the Office of the Ombudsman announced the approval of three separate plunder indictments against Enrile, Estrada, Revilla and seven others for allegedly amassing a total of P597 million in kickbacks and commissions from the disbursement of their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or pork barrel.

Enrile was accused of pocketing P172 million, Revilla P242 million and Estrada P183 million supposedly paid out of their pork barrel funds channeled through selected implementing agencies and into bogus NGOs linked to Napoles. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares and Maricel V. Cruz

 

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