PLUNDER charges were formally filed on Friday against senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles.
Also charged were Enrile’s former chief of staff Gigi Reyes, Estrada’s former chief of staff Pauline Labayen, Revilla’s staff Richard Cambe and private individuals Ronald John Lim and John Raymund de Asis.
No bail was recommended for the accused.
The senators were accused of receiving millions of pesos in kickbacks by diverting their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to bogus projects.
Napoles, whose bid for immunity was denied by the Ombudsman on Thursday, was included in all the charge sheets docketed as No. 238 (Estrada), 239 (Enrile) and 240 (Revilla) for violation of Republic Act 7080, the law defining and penalizing plunder.
Enrile allegedly got kickbacks of up to P172 million, Revilla P224 million and Estrada P183 million, in connivance with Napoles, de Asis and Lim.
The Ombudsman said they amassed ill-gotten wealth “by repeatedly receiving from Napoles and/or representatives Lim, de Asis and others, kickbacks or commissions.”
The information signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales claimed that all of the non-government organizations [NGOs] owned by Napoles were “fictitious,” and that the senators or their staff received commissions from projects funded by their PDAF.
These projects were allegedly endorsed to government agencies “directly or through” Reyes for the Napoles NGOs.
The respondents were also accused of abusing their positions, relationships, connections and influence to enrich themselves at the expense of the people.
Named witnesses were Ruby Tuason, Benhur Luy who was just recently granted immunity, Merlina Suñas and Marina Sula.
Personnel from the Office of the Ombudsman used pushcarts to deliver five boxes of documents to the anti-graft court.
Plunder is punishable by reclusion perpetua and forfeiture of the ill-gotten wealth. The
accused also face perpetual disqualification from public office.
Former President Joseph Estrada, father of Jinggoy, was convicted of plunder but he was pardoned by his successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Estrada is now the mayor of Manila.
The Office of the Ombudsman will file another set of graft charges against the accused next week.
Of those charged, only Revilla and Cambe have a prepared motion for judicial determination of probable cause to block their arrest.
To speed up the trial of the plunder cases, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales asked the Supreme Court (SC) to create at least two special divisions at the Sandiganbayan that will “exclusively try and conduct continuous trial.”
In a letter sent also on Friday to Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, Morales cited the “national magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and the far-reaching consequences of these cases” to justify her request.
Morales cited the High Court’s resolution in 2002 creating a special division of the Sandiganbayan to hear, try and decide with dispatch the plunder case and all related cases filed against former President Estrada and his co-accused.
Her office has created a special prosecution panel composed of three teams to handle the first set of pork barrel cases.
Each team shall respectively prosecute the cases against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla and their respective co-accused.
The Manila Times tried to get the reaction of Enrile but his staff said the senator will not
be issuing any statement in relation to the filing of cases.
Enrile earlier said he is ready to face the charges and that he can be his own lawyer.
Estrada was also not available for comment but in a phone interview on Thursday afternoon, the senator said he will surrender to the proper authorities once the anti-graft court orders his arrest.
He described the entire proceedings at the office of the Ombudsman as moro-moro (farce).
Revilla’s camp said it will be filing a motion for judicial determination of probable cause or suspension of proceedings before the Sandiganbayan, claiming that the senator was denied due process.
Like Estrada, Revilla is also willing to surrender once an arrest warrant is issued against him.
The three senators are still expected to attend the last three remaining sessions next week before Congress adjourns sine die on June 13.