MANILA, Philippines – Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr asked the Ombudsman to reconsider the plunder charges it plans to file against them, calling the case a “grave error.”
Estrada and Revilla separately filed their motions for reconsideration before the Ombudsman on Monday, April 7, asking the anti-graft body not to sue them with the non-bailable crime that will lead to their suspension.
Estrada said the Ombudsman “gravely erred” in considering as evidence of “manifest partiality” his repeated endorsement of bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) of alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
“Given that the NGOs endorsed were accredited at the time of endorsement, it cannot be said that there was no rhyme or reason for such endorsement. Given the factual basis for such endorsement, evident in bad faith cannot be imputed,” Estrada said in a statement released by his spokesperson for legal matters Alexis Abastillas.
Estrada reiterated the argument in his counter-affidavit and speeches that the implementing agencies were responsible for accrediting the NGOs. He has repeatedly refused to take responsibility for the loss of funds meant for development and infrastructure projects.
“The certification by the IAs (implementing agencies) that these NGOs were in fact accredited, a fact not disputed by complainants, further disproves evident bad faith on my part,” Estrada said.
The senator added that there is no basis to charge him for plunder and graft because whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Gertrudes Luy, Marina Sula, and Merlina Suñas stated that they did not personally deliver money to him.
The witnesses though said that they saw Estrada’s resigned appointments secretary, Pauline Labayen, pick up his supposed commissions from Napoles’ office.
“Charges based on mere suspicion and speculation, on bare and unsubstantiated allegations and on hearsay evidence cannot become basis of probable cause,” Estrada said.
The senators’ appeal comes after the Ombudsman announced last week that it had approved the filing of plunder charges against them, Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, and several others. It gave the defendants 5 days upon receipt of its resolution to file a motion for reconsideration.
The Ombudsman said Revilla got the biggest kickback worth P242 million, followed by Enrile with P183 million, and Estrada with P172 million.
Revilla also filed his appeal questioning the decision.
“We are seeking through this MR, for the Ombudsman to take a very serious look again at the evidence on record and resolve to set aside its adverse resolution against Senator Bong Revilla because from all the evidence on record, nothing holds Senator Bong Revilla liable for the crimes charges against him,” Revilla’s lawyer Joel Bodegon told ANC Monday morning.
Estrada and Revilla are abroad but promised to return this month to face the charges against them.
Jinggoy not given Tuason, Cunanan affidavits
While Estrada said the whistleblowers did not personally deliver money to him, self-confessed bagman Ruby Tuason testified that she gave Estrada bags of cash from Napoles in his San Juan home and Senate office. Estrada said Tuason delivered sandwiches and noodles to him, not bags of cash.
Tuason and Technology Resource Center (TRC) director general-on-leave Dennis Cunanan applied to be state witness but the Ombudsman said it has yet to act on it.
In his motion for reconsideration, Estrada lamented that the Ombudsman did not allow him to respond to Tuason and Cunanan’s statements. Cunanan testified that Estrada and Revilla talked to him over the phone ordering the swift release of their pork barrel funds to Napoles’ NGOs.
“We were not provided copies of the affidavits of the additional witnesses, thus, we were not properly apprised of the evidence offered against us, which were eventually made the bases of the finding of probable cause for indictment.” Estrada said.
Estrada said Tuason and Cunanan’s testimonies “tainted” the Ombudsman’s finding, dismissing them as “unsubstantiated and unworthy.” In March, he delivered a privilege speech attacking their credibility and motives.
Even before filing the appeal, Estrada said he already expected the Ombudsman will dismiss it but he will still exhaust all legal remedies. Revilla’s lawyer vowed to do the same.
Besides the two senators, Tuason and Enrile’s resigned chief of staff lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes also filed their motions for reconsideration before the Ombudsman.
The Ombudsman found probable cause to file plunder charges against Tuason and Reyes. Reyes was allegedly Enrile’s conduit who received kickbacks on his behalf. She left the country after the pork barrel scam broke out last year. – Rappler.com