MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang said on Wednesday, April 2, that it had no hand in the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman to file plunder charges against several personalities in connection with the pork barrel scam, including opposition senators, contrary to the claim of the latter.
Responding to questions at a news briefing, Palace Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr denied the claim of the opposition that their members are being singled out in the pork barrel scam, while those allied with President Benigno Aquino III are likely to be spared.
“Our guiding principle from the start is, as the President said, let the evidence direct the course of the inquiry…. The whole process followed this principle, that everything is based on evidence, without bias or favor,” Coloma said.
Responding to questions, Coloma gave an indirect assurance that cases would be pursued against administration allies implicated in the pork barrel scam, as urged by Vice President Jejomar Binay. (READ: Binay: Probe Aquino allies in pork scam too)
“The Executive has done what’s necessary with regard to the initial cases. So in those cases in the Ombudmsan and in the next step, the Sandigan – it’s clear that this is outside the scope of the Executive,” Coloma said, when asked for an assurance that the wheels of justice would also move forward in the case of administration allies.
Pressed to respond to the same question, the Palace official said, “As I said in the last part of my statement yesterday, we share our people’s fervent hopes on the final resolution of these cases.”
Sought for clarification, Coloma said the “cases” he referred to included the Malampaya fund scam that is also being investigated by the Ombudsman.
“‘Cases’ are plural, also referring to the Malampaya [fund] and other cases that are being processed by the assurance. That is our statement. What is important here is that we respect the independence of the Office of the Ombudsman and the judiciary…. That is clearly stated in the Constitution,” he said.
He said that the “participation” of the Executive branch in the legal process “is through the prosecutors of the Department of Justice and, if called upon and needed, the Office of the Solicitor General.”
“But the whole process is in the hands of Sandiganbayan and, prior to that, the Ombudsman. We recognize and respect them as separate and independent bodies,” he said.
Coloma gave the same answer when asked if Malacañang would urge the Ombudsman to work quickly on the second batch of cases on the pork barrel scam which would reportedly include administration allies.
At the regular Palace briefing aired live on state-run PTV 4, Coloma used visual aids to show the public the process awaiting those charged with plunder.
Coloma showed a “roadmap” of the steps that would follow after the Ombudsman found probable cause to indict senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Jinggoy Estrada, alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, and 6 others for plunder.
In making the brief presentation, he said that “it is important that our people know and understand the processes in connection with the PDAF case.”
Coloma said that under the law, respondents have 5 days from receipt of the Ombudsman’s resolution to file a Motion for Reconsideration. The Ombudsman will evaluate and resolve such motions up to a maximum of 60 days.
The Ombudsman will then file the information with the Sandiganbayan, and the case will be raffled-off to one of the 5 divisions of the Sandigandayan.
Upon evaluation of the information and the records of the case, the court will issue warrants of arrest, which ensures that the court acquires jurisdiction over the person of the accused. After this, trial will commence, Coloma said.
“We note that these judicial processes shall be carried out by the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, and the Sandiganbayan that belongs to an independent and co-equal branch of the government. When the 1987 Constitution was promulgated, the Filipino people affirmed fidelity to the rule of law. We are a government of laws, not of men. Let the rule of law take its course,” he said. – Rappler.com