Senator cum veteran actor Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., invincible in his movies either with a saber or a gun, has naturally started to seek refuge before the court of public opinion amid the pending P224 million plunder complaint leveled against him.
Reps. Sherwin Tugna of Citizens Battle Against Corruption party-list, Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna party-list and Silvestre Bello 3rd of 1-BAP party-list made the stance in light of Revilla’s claims in a privilege speech that President Benigno Aquino 3rd flexed his muscle to ensure that Revilla votes for the conviction of former Chief Justice Renato Corona of betrayal of public trust over undeclared wealth.
“The important thing for him is to say his version [of the story]and allegation, and plead it in the court of public opinion, to save his reputation. In judicial court, everything will be judged according to evidence,” Tugna, a lawyer, said in a text message.
“It is human nature that when the room is getting smaller for you, you get to speak. It’s just like the case of the whistleblowers who need to get cornered before they say something,” Zarate, also a lawyer, said in a separate talk.
The plunder complaint against Revilla stemmed from the P10 billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam which allegedly funneled state coffers to politicians and bogus entities owned by Janet Napoles.
Aside from Revilla, other Senators facing plunder complaint as a result of the P10 billion PDAF mess are Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.
When the plunder complaints was filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman, Senator Estrada also disclosed in a privileged speech back in October 2013 that he got P50 million from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Aquino administration for his pet social services and infrastructure in the aftermath of the Corona impeachment trial.
DAP is the mechanism of the government wherein the President realigns the savings to the fund initiatives which are marked as priorities of the administration.
Both Revilla and Estrada, however, denied that they were bribed in voting yes to Corona’s conviction and have insisted that they have decided based on evidence.
“Their statements were belated, but that is no surprise because if you want to take on the President, you will have to think about it for 100 times. They know that their actions will have repercussions,” Bello, who served as Justice Secretary during the Presidency of Gloria Arroyo, added.
Zarate, however, argued that the Senators’ speeches, while belated, is a stern reminder that justice is yet to be achieved over the P10 billion PDAF mess.
The Office of the Ombudsman will determine if there is enough evidence on the plunder complaints lodged by the Justice department against the lawmakers and other individuals implicated in the P10 billion PDAF mess. In such an event, the Office of the Ombudsman will file charges against the government officials before the Sandiganbayan.
“This incident brought the PDAF to spotlight again. The PDAF has already been declared unconstitutional [by the Supreme Court], but we have to be reminded that cases against the accused are yet to be filed before the Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) or in a regular court. We have to stay vigilant,” Zarate said in closing. LLANESCA T. PANTI