MANILA, Philippines – Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales clarified that her office has not yet recommended plunder charges in court against senators and other personalities implicated in the pork barrel scam.
Morales said the Ombudsman’s field investigators only recommended that the plunder complaint be subjected to preliminary investigation.
“Iba ang preliminary investigation, iba ang filing of case sa Sandiganbayan,” Morales told reporters at the sidelines of budget deliberations at the Senate on Thursday, November 21.
(Preliminary investigation is different from the filing of case in the Sandiganbayan.)
Morales was responding to news reports that the team of field investigators already filed 3 separate plunder and graft complaints against Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen Bong Revilla, and Sen Jinggoy Estrada and other accused in the multi-billion peso pork barrel scam after conducting an independent investigation.
The Office of the Ombudsman has said that the recommendation will be forwarded to a special panel of investigators under the Ombudsman for preliminary adjudication and consolidation with the graft complaints that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed in September.
Is Enrile ‘pork’ scam mastermind?
Morales was also asked about a Philippine Daily Inquirer report that came out on Thursday that an investigative team of the Office of the Ombudsman named Enrile as the mastermind of the scam.
The report said an 8-page memorandum prepared by Assistant Ombudsman Joselito Fangon stated that “Clearly, no matter how layered the scheme may have been perpetrated or unrelated the players may appear, all facts point to Senator Enrile as the unseen hand directing the compass and the tempo of the whole orchestra.”
“I am surprised by that 8-page memo. There’s no such thing as 8-page memo. I have several memos. I don’t recall about an 8-page memo but the memo I received is more than 200 pages,” Morales said.
The Inquirer though stood by its story, saying the 8-page memo comprised of the “introductory and dispositive portions in the 246-page Fangon memorandum.”
Since the pork barrel scam was exposed in July, reports have pointed to alleged businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles as the alleged brains behind the scam. Whistleblowers said Napoles created fake non-governmental organizations that became conduits of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
Napoles allegedly connived with the senators and congressmen, and officials of departments and implementing agencies to siphon off the PDAF to her fake NGOs. In exchange, the officials got kickbacks of 50% of the project cost for lawmakers and 10% for implementing agencies.
Napoles is now detained at a police camp in Laguna over a separate illegal detention case.
The Inquirer report though supported the earlier statement of Sen Miriam Defensor Santiago that it was Enrile, not Napoles, who masterminded the scam.
When Napoles testified before the Senate on November 7, Santiago said it was not possible that she would have the “sophistication” to hatch such an elaborate scheme involving high levels of government.
Asked who the scam mastermind was, Santiago said, “Si Enrile! His paternity is unquestioned, his DNA confirmed.”
Santiago is a longtime political rival of Enrile, with their ties further deteriorating over the Christmas cash gift issue last December 2012.
Morales tight-lipped on probe schedule
The Ombudsman also refused to say when her office will conclude its investigation and file charges at the Sandiganbayan.
“I’m not going to say [when] it (investigation) is going to be done or over,” she added.
The pork barrel scam sparked national outrage over the alleged misuse of billions of pesos in taxpayers’ money. Critics have been organizing protests for months now, and filed a case before the Supreme Court to declare the PDAF unconstitutional. On Tuesday, the High Court handed down a landmark ruling striking down the PDAF.
Yet many observers have said that those involved in the scam should be brought to justice through prosecution.
Besides the 3 senators and Napoles, also named in the plunder complaint that the NBI filed before the Ombudsman are the lawmakers’ staff members, congressmen, heads of implementing agencies, and presidents of the Napoles foundations.
Napoles is also facing a separate plunder complaint over the alleged misuse of the P900 million allocation of the Malampaya Fund by the Department of Agrarian Reform. The NBI also filed the complaint before the Ombudsman.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has said her office will file more batches of cases in relation to the PDAF scam and the misuse of other types of government funds. – Rappler.com