MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, April 8, announced that it is cancelling the oral arguments, originally scheduled for April 22, on Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr’s petition to suspend the Ombudsman’s preliminary investigation into his alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Due to the urgency of the motion for a temporary restraining order, the High Court en banc will instead take the case from its third division and look at the merits of Revilla’s petition and the written replies of the government and other concerned parties, SC spokesman Theodore Te told reporters in Baguio City.
The hearings were originally set for April 1 and was postponed to April 22. In late March, the third division already resolved to elevate the petition to the SC en banc, upon the request of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
In the light of Revilla’s case, the full court, the resolution said, wants “an opportunity to further interpret” its 2013 decision to declare the PDAF unconstitutional, BusinessWorld Online reported.
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Revilla is among the first batch of 38 lawmakers, government officials, and private individuals named respondents in a plunder complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for allegedly channelling lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake organizations in exchange for multi-million-peso kickbacks.
Revilla brought to the SC his petition to suspend the probe after the Ombudsman denied it on January 28. The SC on March 20 ordered the Office of the Ombudsman special panel of investigators and its Field Investigation Office, the NBI, and pork barrel scam whistleblowers’ counsel Levito Baligod to issue a reply-comment on Revilla’s petition. They were given 10 days to file their replies.
On April 1, however, the Ombudsman announced the indictment of Revilla and 9 others for plunder. Revilla, who is now in the Holy Land with his family “to seek divine intercession,” filed with the Ombudsman on April 7 a motion for reconsideration, saying the plunder case was a mistake.