Now that the Office of the Ombudsman has announced that there is sufficient evidence to file plunder and other criminal charges against senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong’ Revilla Jr., the Senate should also investigate other senators who were implicated in the pork barrel scam, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said on Thursday.
Santiago noted that the Ombudsman’s move to indict the three senators should serve as a wake-up call for the Senate to conduct another inquiry, this time focused on several senators who are suspected to have released their pork barrel to organizations controlled by Janet Lim Napoles. She said the Senate ethics committee should investigate these senators.
“Because the senators [Enrile, Revilla, Estrada] have been indicted by an independent constitutional body, all the more reason the Senate itself should also take a similar initiative,” Santiago noted.
She, however, did not identify the senators. But according to her, they were included in the affidavits of some of the pork scam witnesses but the attention was focused on Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.
Other senators whose names cropped up in the course of the investigation of the pork barrel controversy are Gregorio Honasan 2nd, Loren Legarda, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Vicente Sotto 3rd.
All four have issued their respective denials.
“That is why I emphasize that already we received this electric shock running into our system but still there has to be an aftershock,” Santiago said in pushing for an expanded probe by the ethics committee.
But chances of the chamber acting on Santiago’s appeal are dim because the Senate has not organized the ethics committee. Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said forming the committee is not a priority of the chamber.
The Senate is having a difficult time organizing the panel because nobody wants to head the committee.
The committee on ethics and privileges handles all matters relating to the conduct, rights, privileges, safety, dignity, integrity and reputation of the Senate and its members.
Last year, Santiago filed an ethics complaint against Enrile and asked Cayetano to organize the ethics committee to take up the case.
She said the Senate may lose more members if the Office of the Ombudsman will also pursue the other lawmakers suspected to have poured their Priority Development Assistance Fund into questionable groups or projects.
“Now that we have in the process resolved the initial hurdles, we should now go to the next ranking senators. So it’s possible that the Senate could be diminished by maybe six or seven senators,” she told reporters in a briefing late Wednesday afternoon.
The senator issued the statement amid reports that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla may be suspended once a criminal information has been filed against them before the Sandiganbayan.
Santiago said the three senators should be detained in ordinary jail together with other ordinary detainees once they are charged with plunder.
Since plunder is a non-bailable offense, Santiago said Enrile, Revilla and Estrada should be sent straight to jail.
“They should be detained while they are undergoing hearing and they should be held in ordinary jail, not in air-conditioned facility, or allowed to be under house arrest,” the senator insisted.
But some observers believe that the Sandiganbayan may allow the three senators to be detained in Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa, Laguna, where their fellow accused Janet Lim-Napoles is being held.