THE Supreme Court (SC) has refused to stop the Office of the Ombudsman from investigating Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr., who has been linked to the pork barrel scam.
The High Court on Tuesday rejected Revilla’s petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO).
The senator had asked the SC to stop the Ombudsman from pursuing its investigation of a plunder complaint filed against him and several others in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
Instead, the tribunal, in its summer session in Baguio City, ordered the respondents “to submit their respective memorandum in relation to the merits of the issue of the propriety and need for issuing the TRO applied for.”
The fate of Revilla in the SC looks dim as the 15-man tribunal has also cancelled oral arguments previously scheduled by the 3rd Division on April 22, 2014.
Impleaded in the petition are the Office of the Ombudsman, through its Special Panel of Investigators, the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) lawyer Levito Baligod and the OMB’s Field Investigation Office (FIO).
The court earlier required the respondents to submit a comment on Revilla’s petition.
The senator is one of several lawmakers accused of releasing part of their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to questionable non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim-Napoles.
Besides Revilla, two other senators—Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada—are also facing plunder charges for allegedly receiving commissions from projects funded by their PDAF.
Revilla has denied transacting with Napoles, insisting that his signature on documents presented as evidence was forged.
Estrada also on Tuesday insisted that there was no evidence on record that will pin him down.
In his 26-page motion for reconsideration submitted to the Ombudsman, he claimed that there is no proof that he received and amassed even a single centavo out of his PDAF. He maintained that the charges were based on mere suspicion and speculation.
“There is nothing on record which established that Sen. Estrada received kickbacks of around ’50 percent of the PDAF amount involved.’ Benhur Luy and other witnesses never claimed to have personally handled and/or witnessed the delivery of ‘around 50 percent of the PDAF amount involved’ to Sen. Estrada,” the motion read.
The senator belittled the ledger kept by Luy that supposedly contains records of various transactions of lawmakers, noting that it does not establish that money was delivered to the senator.
“Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation, on bare and unsubstantiated allegations and on hearsay evidence cannot become basis of probable cause. None of the witnesses ever claimed to be privy or have personal knowledge about any participation, agreement or involvement which I may have in the so-called PDAF scam,” Estrada said.
He reiterated that the actual selection of the NGOs to implement PDAF projects was the sole act and responsibility of the implementing agencies and given such set-up, the act of endorsement by the legislator concerned is merely recommendatory, with the decision to award or not left to the discretion of the implementing agency.
The Ombudsman has 60 days to act on the motions filed by the respondents. If it junks the motions, a complaint will then be filed before the Sandiganbayan.
The anti-graft court will then raffle off the case to a division before ordering the arrest of the lawmakers and other individuals listed in the information sheet.
Since plunder is a non-bailable offense, all those accused will automatically be detained.