Many readers, friends and colleagues, in reaction to my previous column (“Supreme Court decision documents Senators’ acts and their incentives,” Times, July 29), have anxiously written and asked:
What happens now?
Will the bribed senators get away scot-free?
Do they get to keep their loot?
How about the treasury and the people?
Will they get the money back?
Will the Senate go on with “Business as Usual”
Those who raise these questions are concerned about retribution and punishment in the face of rank bribery and misuse of public funds.
In part 2 of this series, I will try to answer these questions with the help of some lawyers and concerned citizens, and the hard lessons provided by advanced democracies.
My focus here will be on the senators and their loot, especially because they have been assiduous in proclaiming their innocence of wrongdoing,and in putting up misleading stories and inquiries, and in attesting to the beneficence of the DAP.
Citation by name and loot in SC decision
Being cited by name and loot in the Supreme Court’s DAP decision is already one kind of retribution for all the senators who were bribed in the Corona impeachment trial.
According to legal practicioners and scholars, this is a very big deal. The decision is destined to be remembered and studied as one of the greatest decisions in Philippine jurisprudence. Every senator named is assured that his posterity will learn of his or her ignominy.
Since they are politicians, who will likely seek reelection or even higher office, it’s prudent to list them down here, along with the sums they received from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
Senators and their DAP funds
(In the order listed by DBM)
1.Antonio Trillanes (P50M)
2. Manuel Villar (P50M)
3. Ramon Revilla (P50M)
4. Francis Pangilinan (P30M)
5. Loren Legarda (P50M)
6. Lito Lapid (P50M)
7. Jinggoy Estrada (P50M)
8. Alan Cayetano (P50M)
9.Edgardo Angara (P50M)
10. Ralph Recto (P50M)
11. Koko Pimentel (P45M)
12.Tito Sotto (P50M)
13.Teofisto Guingona (P44M)
14.Serge Osmeña (P50M)
15. Juan Ponce Enrile (P92M)
17. Greg Honasan (P50M)
18. Francis Escudero (P99M)
19. Pia Cayetano (P50m)
Total: P1.06 billion
Atty. Raymond Fortun on case vs bribed senators.
With the explicit ruling by the SC against the DAP, its declarative citation of the senators, and the loud public clamor for indictments , most lawyers would probably shy away from their defense.
But these are also the kind of cases that could attract them, like moths to a flame—because of possible fringe benefits in the form of publicity and political patronage.
President Aquino’s centrality to these cases as the source of the bribes could assure handsome funding, at least up to the end of his term.
Noted trial lawyer Raymond Fortun posted online his assessment that there may be enough circumstantial evidence to establish the crime of bribery in the cases of the senators who voted to convict CJ Corona.
“No senator in his right mind will admit that he voted YES to convict CJ Corona after he was promised additional pork. Such an admission would be catastrophic for his re-election bid, and will be the basis of a bribery complaint that could land him in jail
“But lawyers will agree with me that several proven facts put together constitute CIRCUMSTANTIAL EVIDENCE that can establish guilt beyond reasonable doubt. What are the proven facts?
“1. Noynoy admitted that a number of senators were called to Malacanang to inquire about the impeachment case during the trial. The complainant having a one-on-one meeting with the judge? Very bad.
“2. Bong Revilla said that he was asked to vote YES during said Malacanang meeting. This meeting was clandestine i.e. Nobody knew about it. His proof? A photograph he took while inside Boy Pick-up’s car, with the license plate detached so nobody would know whose car it was that was used.
“3. Butch Abad admitted that Php1.1 Billion was farmed out as additional pork barrel funds for the projects of the 20 Senators who voted YES to convict CJ Corona. Those who voted NO got nothing.
“4. Nobody knew about these additional pork barrel funds until Jinggoy Estrada revealed it on Sept 24,2013. Nobody also knew about the DAP until Sept 29—because Abad was forced to explain where the additional funds came from.
“5. The Senators already had Php200 Million each in PDAF. There was nothing which would justify giving the 20 YES senators P50-100M each—except as a “reward, bonus or incentive” for voting YES.
“6. PDAF has been proven to be the vehicle by which legislators got kickbacks from the “projects” they propose…
“7. COA admits that Php17 Billion of PDAF funds went to Napoles’s NGOs. And we all know what Napoles’s NGO’s did with the money, right?
“8. Ben Hur Luy confirmed that DAP funds were coursed through Napoles’s NGO’s. He has the digital files to prove it.”
In summary, the 20 yes senators (minus Ping Lacson) face long, sleepless nights ahead of them.
Former Senators Angara, Villar and Pangilinan could face indictments for the part they played in the story of how President Aquino bought the Senate to secure the conviction of CJ corona.
Legal experts say that the cases of the bribed senators should now go to the Ombudsman for appropriate action. The ombudsman, an independent constitutional office, is mandated to act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the government. on any act or omission that “appears to be illegal, unjust, improper or inefficient.”
In the normal order of things, it should be the Department of justice that should bring the complaints to the Ombudsman. But under this administration, and with president Aquino as the source of the bribes, we must doubt whether Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will be proactive in filing complaints against the senators.
But ordinary citizens and civic groups can also file complaints. And the ombudsman is bound by law to act on them.
How about the recovery of the loot?
In Article XI of the constitution, which deals with the accountability of public officers, Section 15 explicitly asserts that “the right of the State to recover properties unlawfully acquired by public officials or employees, from them or from their nominees or transferees, shall not be barred by prescription, laches, or estoppel.“
The staggering amount of P150 billion has been cited in many accounts as the total sum of money that was siphoned into the DAP and freely dispensed by President Aquino and Butch Abad.
In the case of bribery in the Corona impeachment, the senatorial loot from DAP was P1.06 billion. It gets much larger when Drilon’s extra helpings are included.
The challenge of recovery will be formidable, but not impossible. Some experts say that there can be no “good faith defense” for bribery and malversation of public
And the “operative fact” doctrine may be inoperative here.
The nation must not lose sight of the ball, because this case gives us the precious opportunity to prove the seriousness of our declarations against corruption, and our resolve to cleanse the Senate.
The damage to the Senate
In the twin scandals of the DAP and the PDAF, no institution has perhaps been more damaged than the Senate.
You could argue that the DAP has been like a tsunami for the Aquino Presidency.
For the Senate, PDAF and DAP have been the equivalent of two big typhoons. And they have lashed its leaders and its members, without fear or favor.
Once regarded as the nursery of future Presidents, the Senate has sustained grave institutional damage, and colossal reputational damage.
The senate leadership of the 15th Congress (the senate president and the president pro-tempore) are now facing plunder charges in the graft court, and are in detention, along with another senator. Their cases have to do with the misuse of the senatorial pork barrel.
The new Senate leadership of the 16th Congress labors under the weight of complete domination by the executive, and complicity in the implementation of the DAP.
Senate President Drilon holds the record of enjoying the most DAP fund releases, P720 million. Senate president protempore, Ralph Recto, and Senate Majority leader Alan Cayetano, are tainted by their willing acceptance of the impeachment bribes.
The pork barrel used to be the obsession of the House of Representatives, whose members literally fought for pork to bring home to their districts.
But ever since the introduction of senatorial pork, and the creation of a ceiling of P200 million per senator, avarice has deranged almost every senator.
In these circumstances, they became easy prey for the likes of super-corruptor janet lim napoles.
they proved even more vulnerable to the Machiavellian Butch Abad,who will stop at nothing to advance his strategic political goals.
And they were especially vulnerable to a president who knows nothing about governing, and has no respect for the independence of the other branches of government.
It’s no accident that Aquino’s four years at the helm have coincided with the senate ‘s institutional decline and loss of identity.
A former senator, Aquino has made the chamber worse than subservient. As Joker Arroyo has charged, Congress was raped by Aquino with consent.
Since Aquino came to power, the Senate has not tackled legislation of moment and importance.
Executive initiatives in defense and foreign policy take place without the chamber being consulted.
There is little loyalty to and pride in the Senate as an institution today.
That is the tragedy.