It has been more than six months now since the Department of Justice (DoJ) filed the much-awaited plunder and malversation charges with the Office of the Ombudsman. Last 16 September 2013, the DOJ charged 38 persons for the P10-billion pork barrel scam that included three senators, five former congressmen and five former chiefs of staff.
However, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has not filed the corresponding complaints with the Sandiganbayan until today. Six months and two weeks have passed since the DOJ filed the said charges and nothing has been heard from Ombudsman Morales on the status of the historic case that includes Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, “Jinggoy” Ejercito Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr.
Let us re-visit what transpired that fateful third week of September 2013. After the filing of the charges by the DOJ with the Office of the Ombudsman 16 September 16, Ombudsman Morales was asked in a Senate budget hearing how long it would take her office to decide on whether charges will be filed with the Sandibayan. Her succinct reply was: “Up to one year!”
The timetable of “one year” did not sit well with the Filipino people who have been following the outrageous P10-billion embezzlement involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of senators and congressmen. No less than the opposition in the House of Representatives did not agree with the one-year estimate of the Ombudsman.
House Minority leader Ronaldo Zamora, a known legal luminary, gave their position that the one-year timeframe is too long to determine “probable cause.” Representative Zamora stated that the process can definitely take a much lesser time. On the same day that Zamora’s statement appeared in the newspapers, Ombudsman Morales backtracked and changed her tune when she addressed the 3rd Integrity Summit in Makati.
The retired Supreme Court justice who was appointed Ombudsman by President Benigno S. Aquino 3rd in 2011 declared that the Filipino people will be “in for a surprise” and that it will take “much less” than a year for her to resolve the plunder and malversation cases. However, Ombudsman Morales did not qualify what she exactly meant when she was later interviewed by reporters. Her reply was a childish “secret” that was said in jest.
Indeed, the Filipino people and the foreigners following the P10-billion pork barrel scam have been “in for a surprise,” as the Ombudsman promised. Nothing has happened to the historic case filed since September of last year. Nothing has been heard of any development from Ombudsman Morales herself or her office. What a shame for a former Supreme Court justice who is supposed to have integrity and competence.
No less than Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, a former judge herself, has taken notice of the delay. Last week, Senator Santiago called on Ombudsman Conchita Carpio- Morales to start filing the charges against the respondents involving the PDAF of the members of Congress.
“The point is that it has been six months, I think that it will be best if the Ombudsman already files some of the cases in court because the public is getting jaded by these revelations in the Senate probe, plus they are not seeing action (taken),” Santiago said. She added, “we don’t want the public interest to die on this matter because the plunder case is just too important to the national economy.”
So far, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has already conducted nine hearings in its investigation on the misuse and abuse of billions of pesos on the PDAF involving bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) of the alleged mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles. Yet no word from the Office of the Ombudsman on the plunder cases filed before her office.
It now appears that Ombudsman Morales has taken a more personal interest on the BIR case of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona than on the important and urgent matter of the plunder charges filed by the DOJ before her office. In January this year, the Ombudsman filed the case of tax evasion against Mr. Corona before the Sandiganbayan.
Last Thursday, Ombudsman Morales asked the same anti-graft court to freeze and seize the assets of Mr. Corona estimated at over P130 million. The Office of the Ombudsman alleged that these assets are ill-gotten wealth of Mr and Mrs. Corona. She seems to be spending more time on the Corona case than on the PDAF plunder cases.
Yet as Mr. Corona has asked before: “What fairness could we have received from an Ombudsman who viciously prevaricated and testified against me as a malicious hostile witness during my sham trial and an estimated P 6.5-billion (at the very least) bribe-laden impeachment trial in 2012?”
Perhaps if Ombudsman Morales will take the same time on and interest in the P10-billion pork barrel scam as she did with former Supreme Court Chief Justice Corona, then the plunder and malversation charges may finally be filed with the Sandiganbayan!