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MANILA, Philippines – At least two individuals whose names were not included in the Ombudsman’s approval of indictment over the pork barrel scam have been charged before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
In a chance interview after a scheduled court hearing Thursday, June 26, lawyer Jose Villamor said his client Gregoria Buenaventura was charged with graft despite not being named in the Ombudsman’s resolution finding probable cause against the accused in the pork barrel scam.
The scam involves the diversion of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to ghost projects of dubious non-governmental organizations, a ploy made to appear legitimate by channeling funds through implementing agencies of government.
Buenaventura faces two graft cases with Senator Juan Ponce Enrile as principal accused, 8 with Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr, and 5 with Senator Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada. Buenaventura is an official of the National Livelihood Development Corporation, one of the implementing agencies tagged in the scam.
Villamor said Consuelo Lilian Espiritu, another accused in the PDAF scam, was not even included in the complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) before the Ombudsman. Espiritu is a budget officer at the Technology Resource Center (TRC).
A long-time litigator, Villamor said these defects in the information filed against the accused show “there was haste to file the case against them.”
Ombudsman prosecutors earlier faced a minor defeat in court when the Sandiganbayan 1st division denied their motion to admit an amended information for the plunder case of Revilla. Defense lawyers argued vehemently against their attempt to amend the original information filed, saying it indicated they were tailor-fitting the case to their objections.
Villamor added that the Ombudsman prosecutors did not study the cases very well.
“After the complaint was filed by the NBI and FIO Ombudsman, they just relied on all the allegations and did not even consider the defenses of the other parties,” he said.
“If indeed, they considered the defenses, it wasn’t very thorough. That’s why so many parties are complaining. Because all their defenses, their arguments were not considered,” he added.
Villamor, however, admitted that his client’s inclusion in the information filed by the Ombudsman before the Sandiganbayan was an isolated case.
A single mother, his client earlier asked the court to reduce the bail set for her graft charges. Arguing that she was a mere “lowly government employee,” Buenaventura was granted her request.
Not only was Buenaventura’s name not included in the March 28 Ombudsman resolution that greenlighted the filing of the PDAF cases, her name was again absent in the list of respondents in the Ombudsman’s resolution denying bids for judicial review of the said resolution.
But in a consolidated opposition filed by the Ombdusman prosecutors, they said Buenaventura was tagged by state witness Benhur Luy as having received financial benefits from Napoles.
They added that Buenaventura expedited PDAF-funded projects of Enrile that were coursed through NLDC.
The prosecutors further argued that the Ombudsman’s resolution intended to charge her, even if her name was not among those enumerated as respondents.
“A reading of the Joint Resolution in its entirety will show the intention to indict accused Buenaventura… Her name was indicated and her personal participation in the anomaly was discussed in several of its pages,” their opposition read. – Rappler.com