DESPITE recent setbacks in the filing of plunder charges at the Sandiganbayan, Malacañang remains confident that the Justice department’s diligence in building up the case against suspects in the pork barrel scam is enough to ensure their conviction.
“Before the information was filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, there was thorough study done by the Department of [Justice], the NBI [National Bureau of Investigation] and other government agencies in gathering data and information in doing the case build-up to ensure that the charges are based on concrete evidence that can be proven in court,” Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma said on Sunday.
Speaking at state-run Radyo ng Bayan, Coloma added that there was no room for “guessing” or “speculation” when the DOJ investigated the charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.
“The government knows the standards of our justice system that when a case is tried by the court, guilt must be beyond reasonable doubt,” the Palace official stressed.
Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman last week tried to amend the information for plunder filed against Revilla and Estrada but failed to get the anti-graft court’s nod.
Nevertheless, Coloma said the pieces of evidence that were submitted by the DOJ, including authenticated documents that bore the signatures of those involved, will be sufficient to pin down the accused.
“That’s why they labored to gather strong evidence, authentic documents that will support the charges. That remains our stand,” the Palace official noted.
Estrada and his co-accused will be arraigned today.
“We will witness the continuation of the process of law and we hope that it will proceed in a just manner and fair trial… aimed at getting justice for the alleged misuse of public funds,” Coloma said.
Estrada, Napoles and several other personalities will be arraigned at the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division.
Estrada is accused of amassing P183 million in “pork” kickbacks. He also faces 11 counts of graft.
Revilla was arraigned last week. The two senators are detained in Camp Crame, Philippine National Police headquarters in Quezon City.
The anti-graft court’s Third Division is yet to determine if there is probable cause to issue arrest warrants for Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile and his co-accused.
Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares agreed with Coloma that the strength of the cases filed against the senators will depend on the prosecution’s evidence.
He said the prosecution should prepare for the defense because it could use the attempt at amending the charge in their favor.
“By trying to change the main theory of their plunder cases, the prosecutors gave the senators’ defense teams the ammunition to question the cases and prolong the trial and to boost their claim that the filing of charges was rushed in order to harass them,” Colmenares added. He warned that if the defense went the Supreme Court, the trial and resolution of the cases would be delayed.
Estrada’s 25 co-accused in the graft complaint include Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and budget employees Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare; National Agribusiness Corp. ex-President Allan Javellana and Nabcor employees Rhodora Mendoza, Victor Cacal and Maria Ninez Guañizo; ex-Technology Resource Center Directors-General Antonio Ortiz and Dennis Cunanan, TRC employees Francisco Figura, Marivic Jover and Rosalinda Lacsamana; National Livelihood and Development Corp. ex-President Gondelina Amata and NLDC employees Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, Chita Jalandoni, Gregoria Buenaventura, Sofia Cruz and Evelyn Sugcang; Consuelo Lilian Espiritu; and Romulo Revelo.