IT may take some time before the Sandiganbayan can take action on the plunder complaint filed against senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles because the anti-graft court will have to wait for the Supreme Court’s (SC) decision on a petition challenging the case and the Ombudsman’s request for the creation of a special division that will handle “pork” cases.
Executive Clerk of Court IV Renato Bocar, the anti-graft court’s temporary spokesman for the cases, said the plunder case will not be raffled off until the High Court comes up with its decision.
“We cannot preempt whatever the decision of the Supreme Court is, who they will make members of the special division, if there will be one or two divisions as requested by the Ombudsman,” he told reporters in an interview on Tuesday.
The Supreme Court en banc has asked the Sandiganbayan to comment on the request of the Ombudsman within three days from notice.
The anti-graft court raffles off cases on Fridays but Bocar said it is not certain if the plunder complaint against the three senators will be included in the raffling off of cases on Friday.
“No special raffle will be held regarding these cases and the Sandiganbayan will wait for the Supreme Court to act on the Ombudsman’s request to create a special division,” Bocar said.
But if the SC creates a special division, a raffle will be unnecessary because all the cases related to the pork barrel scam will be assigned to it, he noted.
“It is up to the Supreme Court who they will select as members of a special division. The justices [in the Joseph Estrada plunder hearings]were handpicked by the Supreme Court.
It was considered who would be retiring soon, who were appointed by former President
Estrada, who inhibited,” Bocar explained.
Currently, the anti-graft court has five divisions. Each division has three magistrates.
Bocar said the special division, if ever created, would have a challenging workload because of the sheer number of people included in the “pork” charge sheet.
But since no division has been appointed to handle the plunder case, the motions filed by some of the accused will not be acted upon, he added.
“The filed [motions]are just staying at the docket section. The court will not take action [on the motions]because the cases have not yet been assigned to a division,” Bocar also explained.
Revilla, his chief of staff Richard Cambe, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos, Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare have filed motions for judicial determination of probable cause immediately after the filing of the criminal complaint.
The court will issue a warrant of arrest once it determines that there is probable cause. Bocar said
Also on Tuesday, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, Enrile’s former chief of staff, asked the SC to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) that will stop the Sandiganbayan from trying the case.
In her petition, Reyes asked the High Court to issue a TRO or a writ of preliminary injunction against the Office of the Ombudsman, which she accused of gravely abusing its discretion for not giving weight to the evidence she submitted showing that all the documents linking her to the pork scam are “forged, false and fictitious.”
“The Office of the Ombudsman committed grave abuse of discretion in relying upon mere suspicions, surmises and conjectures in concluding that petitioner ‘acted in connivance’ and ‘in concert’ with Senator Enrile on the mere basis of her position as chief of staff and alleged authorized representative of the latter,” she said.
Reyes also asked the SC to remand the plunder case to the Office of the Ombudsman so that it can hold another preliminary investigation. She said she was not furnished copies of the testimony of Ruby Tuason, who was accepted as state witness.
“Thus, the joint resolution of the Ombudsman, dated March 28, 2014, as against petitioner is void and tainted with nullity. For, as held by the Supreme Court, a denial of procedural due process is a grave jurisdictional defect which renders the judgment void,” Reyes added.
She also questioned the grant of immunity to Tuason and the other whistleblowers like Benhur Luy. According to her, the Ombudsman violated Section 17 Rule 119 of the 2000 Rules of Criminal Procedure since Tuason and the group of Luy were among “the most guilty” in the pork barrel scam.
She noted that those admitted into the Witness Protection Program are the most guilty because they admitted during a Senate hearing that they forged the signatures of lawmakers and members of their staff in pork-related documents.
Reyes claimed that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales allowed a series of clarificatory hearings with Tuason and Luy but she was denied the same privilege despite requesting it. She said she could have proven that her signatures appearing in the pork barrel documents were fake.
“The Ombudsman gave Tuason and other whistleblowers undue advantage, preference and benefits prejudicial to petitioner which amount to selective or discriminatory prosecution,” Reyes added.
As to the affidavits of Luy and his companions, she said they are simply hearsay.