THE anti-graft court ordered the drafting of arrest warrants against Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. and his co-accused Thursday for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
First Division clerk of court Estella Teresita Rosete said a member of Revilla’s staff had already called the Sandiganbayan to coordinate arrangements for his surrender.
Earlier, the First Division denied Revilla’s motion to suspend the proceedings initiated by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz of the First Division, along with Associate Justices Rafael Lagos and Napoleon Inoturan as members, said only the Supreme Court could stop the proceedings.
“Unless the court is restrained by Supreme Court, we will proceed,” De la Cruz said.
Revilla, represented by lawyer Joel Bodegon, said the Ombudsman had denied him due process.
Bodegon told the court that Revilla’s signatures were forged by the whistleblowers-turned-state witnesses in several documents for the release of the senator’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.
With his arrest looming, Revilla prodded the Supreme Court for the third time to restrain the Office of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan from prosecuting him for plunder and graft.
In a petition for certiorari and prohibition, Revilla asked the Supreme Court to issue a temporary restraining order or a writ of preliminary injunction against the Sandiganbayan.
Revilla also asked the high court to nullify the charges filed against him by the Ombudsman on the grounds that they were filed in violation of his constitutional right to due process.
The senator said Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales committed grave abuse of discretion in issuing the joint resolution dated March 28, 2014, which found probable cause to indict him for plunder and graft and the joint resolution issued on June 4, 2014 which denied his motion for reconsideration.
The anti-graft body has not basis to charge him for plunder, Revilla said, citing the Sandiganbayan’s earlier ruling in the case of former President Joseph Estrada, a public official can only be held liable for plunder if it is show he has amassed ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least P50 million.
“Indeed, the assailed resolutions do not even have proof that Senator Revilla has the qualifying amount of P50 million in his possession or in his bank account, much less proof that any money that is in his possession has been acquired unlawfully,” the petition said.
The Ombudsman’s resolutions failed to show any proof that he received even a single centavo as kickback from his PDAF allocation, the senator added.
The Sandiganbayan Third and Fifth Divisions are also scheduled to hear the motions to dismiss and motions for judicial determination of probable cause filed by Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, the two other opposition senators who are facing plunder charges.
Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te went to Sandiganbayan to inspect ares where widescreen monitors would be set up for media coverage of the trial.
Immigration Commissioners Siegried Mison on Thursday admitted that some of the 54 accused in the pork barrel cases filed with the Sandiganbayan may have already left the country.
At the Justice Department Thursday, Mison said Bureau of Immigration records showed that “less than 10” of those indicted before the anti-graft court might no longer be in the country.
After meeting Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Mison told journalists that his bureau needed to confirm if the names found in their records were indeed the ones facing graft charges.
“We are coordinating with the Sandiganbayan for more details to make sure that the names included in the hold departure order are the names in our database because there are common names there in the list,” he added.
He declined to reveal the names until they have been verified.
“They left for different destinations and different dates. We also could not immediately get the countries they went to because we only record flight numbers and not the destinations,” he said.
One of the accused, whom he did not name, left the country our years ago and has not since returned, Mison said.
He added, however, that none of the more prominent among the accused have tired to leave since the filing of the cases in the Sandiganbayan on June 6.
Senator Estrada on Thursday said he was suffering “mental torture” over the prospect of being jailed again.
Speaking at the “Kapihan sa Senado,” Estrada said he has been thinking about his children and his family, who might be traumatized with his impending arrest and detention.
“I trust that they will be able to handle it, as they did before. The only challenge is my 8-year-old daughter Jill,” said Estrada, who had been charged with plunder before and detained in 2001. He was eventually cleared, however, but his father was convicted.
“I talked to my family last week regarding my situation. I advised them to pray, stay strong for my life in jail. But my youngest, it seems she cannot take it. Sometimes she asks her mother why I will be sent to jail,” Estrada said.
Estrada said even though he had been detained before, the prospect of arrest was still daunting.
“It’s mental torture. We don’t know if the warrant of arrest will come out tomorrow, next week or two weeks from now,” said Estrada.
He said he expects the warrant to be issued next week, pending the hearing set on Friday for his motion for judicial determination of probable cause at the Sandiganbayan.
Estrada has been accused of pocketing P183.79 million in pork barrel funds intended for poor farmers, a charge he has denied.
Estrada added that he has already made arrangements to surrender to the director of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group, Benjamin Magalong.
He said he would go to police headquarters in Camp Crame to surrender, and asked Magalong not to serve the warrant in his house as this might traumatize his children.
Interviewed over Channel 2’s ANC, former President Estrada insisted that his son was innocent and merely careless in the allocation of his pork barrel.
“He was just careless.” He doesn’t have that intention to take advantage of his PDAF,” the former president said.
He said his son most likely accommodated those who asked for access to his PDAF and directed his secretary to deal with them.
“That’s what I did when I was a senator,” he said.
He supported his son’s stand that it was the responsibility of the implementing agencies to check if the non-government organizations through which the funds were channeled were real or fake.
It was also the responsibility of the Budget Department to see where the money was going, the former president said.
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