The Office of the Ombudsman’s resolution on the P10-billion pork barrel case is the first step in the “roadmap” leading to the arrest and prosecution of lawmakers and other personalities facing plunder charges and other offenses in connection with the wrongful use of the funds, a Malacañang official said on Wednesday.
Using a powerpoint presentation, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. traced for reporters the process which he described as purely judicial in nature.
Coloma said it is important that “our people know and understand the processes in connection with the PDAF [Priority Development Assistance Fund] case.”
He described the next steps following the release of the Ombudsman’s resolution on Tuesday:
One, each respondent is given five days from receipt of the Ombudsman’s resolution to file a motion for reconsideration
Two, the Ombudsman will evaluate and rule on the motions within 60 days
Three, the Ombudsman will file the information with the Sandiganbayan.
Four, the case will be raffled to one of the Sandigandayan’s five divisions.
“Upon evaluation of the information and the records of the case, the court will issue warrants of arrest,” Coloma said.
He added that the issuance of the warrants of arrest ensures that the court assumes jurisdiction over the accused.
“[Then] trial will commence,” Coloma said.
Asked if the inclusion of the issuance of warrants in the roadmap means the respondents could now be arrested, he replied that it would be up to the judiciary.
“What is important is our understanding of the process. I made it clear that all these steps are within the scope of the Ombudsman, the court and the Sandiganbayan. The participation of the Executive branch is through the prosecutors of the Department of Justice, and if needed be, the Office of the Solicitor General,” Coloma explained.
The “roadmap,” however, does not include the possibility of dismissal or acquittal, something that could indicate the Palace’s strong faith in the evidence against the accused.
Pressed for an answer on whether or not the Palace is assuring the arrest of the respondents, Coloma said: “Upon evaluation of the information and the records of the case, the court will issue warrants of arrest.”
“That statement did not come from me. That is according to the law,” he pointed out.
“I will not also be judge. Let’s follow the law,” a visibly irked Coloma added.
On Tuesday, the Ombudsman said it found sufficient evidence against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, to indict them, along with Janet Lim Napoles, for plunder involving the abuse of the PDAF.
Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the multibillion scam.
Ombudsman spokesman Asryman Rafanan said Enrile received up to P172 million, Revilla, P242 million and Estrada, P183 million in kickbacks from awarded PDAF projects.
Also on Tuesday, the Senate blue ribbon committee recommended that plunder charges be filed against other parties implicated in the PDAF scam.
“The three joint resolutions concluded that the three senators took undue advantage of their official position to illegally divert, in connivance with certain respondents, the respective PDAF allocations to the Napoles NGOs [non-government organizations] in exchange for kickbacks or commissions,” Rafanan said.
Plunder, a non-bailable offense, is punishable under Republic Act (RA) 7080 by life imprisonment and forfeiture of the ill-gotten wealth.
Meanwhile, Coloma maintained that Malacanang and President Benigno Aquino 3rd still abide by the principle of “letting the evidence direct the course of the inquiry.”
“When the 1987 Constitution was promulgated, the Filipino people affirmed fidelity to the rule of law. We are a government of laws, not of men. Let the rule of law take its course,” he said.
At the same time, Coloma denied that the filing of the Ombudsman resolution targeted only members of the opposition.
“Everything the Department of Justice, the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] have done pertain to the gathering of evidence. It is within their mandate and like I stated yesterday, the separate findings of the NBI and the field investigation office of the Office of the Ombudsman were the grounds for the promulgation of the resolution of this case,” he said.
Coloma’s presentation of the supposed roadmap failed to dispel speculations that the Palace was orchestrated the timing of the issuance of the resolution and the announcement of the blue ribbon panel report.
“What is important is the principle we follow about respect for the independence of a separate office of the Ombudsman and the judicature as provided by law. The Executive cannot intervene in [their]powers. It is clearly defined by law,” he stressed.
JOEL M. SY EGCO