The Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division has barred Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and his co-accused in the plunder complaint from leaving the country.
The court issued a hold departure order (HDO) against Estrada, Janet Lim Napoles, Pauline Therese Mary Labayen, and John Raymund de Asis. Labayen was Estrada’s former deputy chief-of staff.
The anti-graft court ordered the Bureau of Immigration to include the names of the accused in its list of persons who are not allowed to leave the country.
For the graft cases, a separate HDO listed 14 people where Estrada, Labayen, De Asis and Napoles were also named.
Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal, whose bids for immunity were earlier denied by the Ombudsman, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and Dennis Cunanan were on the list.
Meanwhile, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on Monday opposed the issuance of a warrant of arrest against him, arguing that the charge “does not adequately inform” him of the accusation against him.
In a 30-page supplemental opposition to issuance of warrant of arrest and for dismissal of information, Enrile asked the Sandiganbayan’s Third Division to junk the plunder case against him.
He claimed that no arrest warrant may be issued on the basis of the information, which he alleged was “void” because it supposedly did not comply with the law’s requirement to inform the accused of the
nature and cause of the accusation against him.
Accusations must be sufficiently described so that the respondent would be able to defend himself properly, the senator argued.
Under the Rules of Court, an information must state the acts or omissions constituting the offense, the qualifying and aggravating circumstance in terms enough for a person of common understanding to know what offense is being charged and for the court to pronounce judgment.
Enrile is accused of gaining P172 million in kickbacks by diverting his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to non-government organizations (NGOs) supposedly owned by Janet Lim-Napoles. The NGOs were supposed to implement projects that “turned out to be ghost or fictitious, thus enabling Napoles to misappropriate the PDAF proceeds for her personal gain.”
The projects were allegedly endorsed and the commissions received either directly by or through the senator’s former chief of staff, lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes.
Reyes and Enrile allegedly conspired with each other and with Napoles, Ronald John Lim and John Raymund de Asis.
But for Enrile, the information filed by the Office of the Ombudsman “does not adequately inform” him of the nature and cause of the accusation against him for plunder as defined in Republic Act 7080, the law that punishes such an offense.
The allegations were “a bundle of confusing ambiguity,” his motion read.
“Who gave the ‘kickbacks or commissions’? Napoles or Lim or de Asis and unnamed ‘others’ or all of them together? And who received the ‘kickbacks or commissions’? Enrile or Reyes? Or both of them?
Accused is required to speculate,” he said.
“..[H]ow such allegation [of kickbacks]demonstrate[s]that such ‘kickbacks or commissions were paid in the total amount of P172,834,500.00 ‘through a combination or series of overt criminal acts’ or ‘similar schemes’ is beyond understanding,” he added.
Last week, Enrile asked the court to dismiss his case and let him post bail, whether there is probable cause, saying he is of “poor” and “frail” condition.
Plunder is a non-bailable offense.
Napoles’ children—Jo Christine and James Christopher—also asked the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the plunder case lodged against them in connection with the pork barrel scam for lack of merit.
In a 47-page motion filed at the Sandiganbayan’s 3rd Division, they argued that the anti-graft court cannot rely solely on the report of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales indicting them for plunder because the Sandiganbayan must decide independently and must have supporting evidence other than the prosecutor’s report.
The Ombudsman alleged that Jo Christine and James Christopher, as well as their mother Janet, acted in concert with Enrile and Reyes in carting away P172 million by executing deals and acknowledging receipt of checks issued to government agencies representing the PDAF releases.
But Jo Christine and James Christopher said the affidavits of public officials who are among their co-accused in the plunder case showed that these officials have not seen, met, discussed and transacted with the Napoles siblings.
“The accused beg the indulgence of this Honorable Court to thoroughly review and scrutinize the entire records that led to the filing of the subjection information and then to make a separate finding of probable cause. The accused had no transaction, personal or official, with any of the co-accused public officials. Can there be a conspiracy if the accused have not met, seen and talked to each other?” they said in their motion for judicial determination of probable cause with urgent motion to defer the issuance of warrant of arrest and suspend proceedings read.
Based on affidavits made by whistleblowers Benhur Luy and Merlita Suñas cited by the Ombudsman in filing plunder charges against the Napoles children, siblings Jo Christine and James Christopher received kickbacks from PDAF-funded projects that were implemented through their mother’s bogus entities, diverted at least P345-million worth of PDAF to their mother’s control and prepared a list of fictitious beneficiaries and other documents for liquidation, among others, in their capacity as JLN Corp.’s vice president for administration and finance and vice president for operations, respectively.
JLN stands for Janet Lim-Napoles.
The Napoles siblings also invoked that records, which were gathered by Ombudsman investigators, as well as those dug up by the National Bureau of Investigation, did not show that they were officers of the NGOs owned by their mother that included six NGO implementors of the livelihood projects financed by Enrile’s PDAF.
The Napoles siblings then accused the whistleblowers of making up stories to implicate them since Luy, Suñas and another whistleblower Marina Sula admitted that they were involved in establishing the NGOs.
Luy, Suñas and Sula used to be officials of a number of Napoles-owned NGOs.
“The allegations are highly incredulous and preposterous . . . coming from a polluted source. They are the perpetrators of the alleged crimes and hope to pin their wrongdoings on the accused,” they said.
Ahead of the possible issuance of warrants of arrest against Enrile, Estrada and Sen. Ramon ‘Bong” Revilla, the Philippine National Police (PNP) also on Monday showed to the media the would-be detention center for the three lawmakers.
Chief Supt. Rueben Theodore Sindac, PNP Public Information Office head, led reporters in Camp Crame in Quezon City in the first public tour of the detention center.
The center, about 32 square meters with one electric fan each for Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, was formerly an officers’ quarters that was converted by the PNP into a simple detention cell for the three senators.
“Electronic gadgets such as cellular phones, laptops and wifi dongles will be strictly prohibited inside the detention cell,” Sindac told reporters.
He said other improvements in the detention center such as installation of air conditioning units that the senators would want need approval from the court.
With Anthony Vargas