The Sandiganbayan on Thursday ordered the arrest of Sen. Gregorio Honasan 2nd who is facing graft charges in others in connection with the alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel allocation totaling P29.1 million in 2012.
The anti-graft court’s second division found basis to try Honasan and several others.
“After perusing the Information and carefully evaluating the Joint Resolution dated August 9, 2016 and Joint Order dated April 12, 2017, both of the Office of the Ombudsman, as well as the supporting evidence, conformably with Section 5(a), Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, the Court finds that there is sufficient probable cause to hold the accused in this case for trial and issue a warrant of arrest against them,” the court said in two separate rulings.
The Ombudsman earlier filed two counts of graft against Honasan and several other individuals. Bail was set at P30,000 for each respondent per graft case.
Also charged were Michael Benjamin, Honasan’s former political affairs chief/project coordinator, former National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) Secretary Mehol Sadain, former NCMF acting chief Accountant Fedelina Aldanese, Olga Galido and Giovanni Manuel Gaerlan and Salvador Gaerlan, former officers of Focus on Development Goals Foundation, Inc.
Honasan, Benjamin, Sadain, Aldanese, Galido, Giovanni Manuel Gaerlan and Salvador Gaerlan were named respondents in the second case along with Galay Makalinggan, former NCMF director III, and Aurora Aragon-Mabang, former acting chief of the NCMF’s Management Audit Division.
Sadain, Aldanese, Mabang, and Galido posted bail. Honasan, Benjamin, Makalinggan, Giovanni Manuel Gaerlan, and Salvador Gaerlan have yet to post bail.
Honasan on Thursday maintained his innocence.
“All my life I have fought everything I am accused of, and I will continue to do so,” he said in a statement.
Sen. Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights, vouched for Honasan’s integrity. “I know Sen. Gringo is upright. But when you’re issued an arrest warrant, it doesn’t mean you’re guilty but that there is a probable cause. The court just wants you to be there to answer (the charges against you),” he said.
“I’m sure he will answer the charges in court. I think he will do that. I don’t think he will just blow or fly the hoof knowing him. I think in due time he will answer,” Gordon said in a phone interview.
In May 2014, Janet Lim-Napoles claimed that 20 incumbent and former senators benefitted from their PDAF.
These were former Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, Manuel “Lito” Lapid, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Rodolfo “Pong” Biazon, Luisa “Loi” Estrada, Robert Jaworski, Ramon Magsaysay, Tessie Aquino-Oreta, Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., Manuel “Manny” Villar, the late senator Robert Barbers, and Alan Peter Cayetano, now Secretary of Foreign Affairs.
They also include incumbent Senators Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Honasan, Loren Legarda, Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel 3rd, Vicente “Tito” Sotto 3rd and Cynthia Villar.
Revilla and Estrada are detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame while Enrile was allowed to post bail.
with Bernadette E. Tamayo