3 ex-senators charged in pork barrel scam running in 2019

Alex Evangelista
3 ex-senators charged in pork barrel scam running in 2019
(UPDATED) Ramon Revilla Jr is currently detained, while Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile are out on bail

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Plunder cases in connection with the pork barrel scam will not stop 3 former senators from seeking a return to the Senate in the May 2019 midterm elections.

Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr’s family filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) on his behalf at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) headquarters on Wednesday, October 17, the last day of the filing period. 

On Tuesday, October 16, Jinggoy Estrada personally filed his COC for senator, while Juan Ponce Enrile filed through his lawyer Joseph Sagandoy after a surprise announcement of his senatorial bid.

Revilla is currently detained, while Estrada and Enrile are out on bail.

The 3 senators were charged with plunder at the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan over alleged misuse of their pork barrel or Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the lump-sum funds previously allocated to legislators. (READ: Pork Tales: A story of corruption)

The scam’s supposed mastermind is Janet Lim Napoles, who is also facing plunder and graft charges at the Sandiganbayan.

Revilla’s trial at the Sandiganbayan 1st Division ended in August this year, and has been submitted for decision. It was the first-ever pork barrel scam case to wrap up. (READ: Trial wraps for Revilla: Did prosecution tie loose ends?)

On Wednesday, Revilla’s wife, Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado Revilla, insisted on his innocence.

“The truth will come out, and justice will prevail,” she said.

Estrada’s plunder case remains pending after the Supreme Court (SC) recently affirmed the charges against him. (READ: DOCUMENTS: SC decision, dissent in upholding Estrada plunder

The Sandiganbayan Special 5th Division granted bail to Estrada in September 2017.

Meanwhile, pre-trial proceedings against Enrile are still ongoing at the Sandiganbayan 3rd Division, which had junked the former Senate president’s pleas to dismiss the plunder case against him. 

The SC allowed Enrile to post bail in August 2015.

Can they run?

The 3 plunder defendants are allowed to run for office because the Local Government Code and the Omnibus Election Code disqualify people from holding public office only upon a conviction, or if they have been administratively sanctioned with the penalty of perpetual disqualification from office.

Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla, though charged criminally with plunder and graft, were not administratively sanctioned by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In the event of a conviction for any of them, disqualification will not be automatic as well, according to Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje Tang.

Under the Local Government Code and the Omnibus Election Code, those convicted of crimes punishable by 12 to 18 months or more in jail are disqualified from holding public office.

Plunder is punishable by lifetime imprisonment, and conviction also carries a perpetual disqualification penalty.

“The judgment of conviction must be final and executory…so if there is a pending motion for reconsideration or appeal from the judgment of conviction, the disqualification does not yet attach,” Tang said.

Simply said, if any of the 3 are convicted, they would not be disqualified unless the SC makes a final and executory ruling, a period of litigation that will take more time. – Rappler.com