The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday ordered Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to explain on a petition of an anti-corruption group to investigate and prosecute President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for committing illegal acts in connection with the outlawed Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
The petitioners were led by former Tarlac governor Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, an aunt of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The SC en banc, during Tuesday’s deliberations, told Morales and de Lima to file their comments within 10 days.
The comments would serve as arguments for the respondents’ defense against the petition filed against them.
SC Justice Marvic Leonen had sought to save President Aquino and recommended immediate dismissal of the petition, saying it is a wrong remedy.
The tribunal, however, prevailed against Leonen in not immediately junking the case and instead ordered the respondents to file their comments.
Leonen is the most junior justice of the SC and the latest appointee ot Aquino.
In a 48-page petition for mandamus, the petitioners also urged the High Court to compel Morales to pursue the investigation and prosecution of other public officials and individuals who should be held liable for alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and DAP funds.
The PDAF and the DAP had been declared unconstitutional by the SC.
The group asked the SC to order Morales, de Lima, Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. among others to comply with rulings involving the PDAF and the DAP.
The petitioners include Greco Antonious Belgica, Bishop Reuben Abante, Rev. Jose Gonzales, Quintin San Diego and lawyer Glenn Chong.
The DAP was exposed by Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada as the source of the bribe money given to all senators and congressmen for the prosecution and conviction of then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The petitioners said the SC has already stricken down the “pork barrel” system and “directed all prosecutorial organs of the government, to within the bounds of reasonable dispatch, investigate and accordingly prosecute all government officials and/or private individuals for possible criminal offenses related to the irregular, improper and/or unlawful disbursement/utilization of all funds under the pork barrel system.”
They noted that two years after the SC declared the PDAF and the DAP unconstitutional, Morales and De Lima have not launched an investigation of the officials.
“There exists special or extraordinary reasons which warrant the immediate intervention of the honorable court considering that what is ultimately at stake in the case at bar is the political, social and even economic life of the nation, not to mention the overarching significance or transcendental public importance of the issue’s foisted as well as the gravity of the crimes committed,” the petition read.
Despite being an impeachable officer, the petitioners insist that Aquino can still be investigated by the Ombudsman for “any serious misconduct in office….for the purpose of filing a verified complaint for impeachment.”
Among the criminal charges that can be filed against Aquino and the other respondents are usurpation of legislative functions, technical malversation, bribery and corruption of public officers, violations of Republic Act 3019 and impeachment in the case of the President.
The petitioners argued that criminal prosecution must be initiated, along with tadministrative and forfeiture cases which can be launched.
“Independent of criminal prosecution, the said public officials must also be proceeded against for their administrative or civil liabilities, and suspended or removed from office, if warranted,” the petition also read.
Aquino was asked to be compelled to push for the probe and prosecution of “other offenders anent the PDAF’s abuse or misuse.”