Ghosts of an anomalous past: Cases, controversies hounding new senators

Jodesz Gavilan
Ghosts of an anomalous past: Cases, controversies hounding new senators


A number of the new senators also have their share of controversies, including being accused of violating certain laws and becoming subjects of investigations

MANILA, Philippines – The Philippine government welcomes 12 new senators as the Commission on Elections on Wednesday, May 22, proclaimed them as winners in the 2019 midterm elections. 

The composition of the upcoming Senate has sparked fears of a compromised Congress, which is seen as the last bastion of independence under the Duterte administration. (READ: Beyond legislation: Powers, roles of Philippine lawmakers

These fears are not unfounded as 9 out of the 12 are allies of President Rodrigo Duterte while no opposition candidate got into the winning circle – a first in 80 years for the national legislature.

A number of the new senators also have their share of controversies, including being accused of violating certain laws and becoming subjects of investigations.

Rappler lists these new senators who are currently facing cases, complaints, or probes, as well as those who have been acquitted or have had cases against them dismissed.

ON BAIL. Senator-elect Bong Revilla is facing 16 counts of graft. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

14,624,445 votes

Incoming senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr is currently facing 16 counts of graft in connection with the pork barrel scam. He is currently out on bail. 

In December 2016, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Revilla of plunder charges but made clear that his office was used in the biggest corruption scandal in Philippine history.

The anti-graft court ordered the return of P124.5 million to the Philippine treasury with the Office of the Ombudsman now pushing for Revilla’s civil liability. 

PROCLAMATION. Incumbent Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos is the second child of dictator Ferdinand Marcos to win a Senate seat. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

15,882,628 votes

Incumbent Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos has been repeatedly found to have lied about her academic credentials. 

Rappler has found that she does not hold a law degree from the University of the Philippines, did not graduate from Princeton University, and did not finish valedictorian in a California boarding school.

These findings are counter to what she stated in her curriculum vitae posted during her time at the House of Representatives

The provincial government of Ilocos Norte under her watch has also been the subject of a motu propio investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the misuse of tobacco funds.

The House committee on good government and public accountability, meanwhile, recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against officials for purchasing vehicles amounting to P64.45 million without public bidding.

Although the committee did not list the officials to be charged, they said in a later statement that it was Marcos who requested the purchase of the vehicles.

Imee, the daughter of dictator Ferdinand Marcos, has also been accused of being involved in human rights abuses under martial law. (READ: Gone too soon: 7 youth leaders killed under Martial Law)

In 1991, the District Court of Honolulu, Hawaii, found her civilly liable for the “wrongful death of deceased Archimedes Trajano committed by military intelligence officials of the Philippines allegedly under the command, direction, authority, supervision, tolerance, sufferance and/or influence of defendant (Imee Marcos) pursuant to the provisions of Rule 39 of the then Revised Rules of Court.”

The court ordered Imee to pay the family of Trajano $4.16 million in damages. But in 2006, the Supreme Court blocked the payment because it found that a lower court sheriff was not diligent enough in personally serving the summons to her. (READ: How Imee Marcos got away from paying $4M in damages for Trajano death

FROM AID TO SENATOR. Long-time assistant Christopher Bong Go is proclaimed senator. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

20,657,702 votes

Bong Go, the long-time aide of Duterte, has been accused of vote-buying in the form of donations to fire victims during the campaign period. 

An exclusive report by Rappler found that cash assistance was given by Go’s camp, either during or right after he visited fire surivivors. Election watchdogs called on the Comelec to be “proactive” and to investigate the allegations.

He was also tagged by Peter Joemel Advincula, who also identified himself as “Bikoy,” of being involved in the illegal drug trade, together with other members of the First Family. (TIMELINE: The ‘Bikoy’ controversy)

A Rappler investigation in January 2018 also found documents that show Go intervened in the multi-billion-peso project to acquire two brand new frigates or warships for the Philippine Navy. (DOCUMENTS: How Bong Go is linked thrice to frigates deal

NEW SENATOR. The former PNP chief wins the Senate race. Screenshot from Rappler

19,004,225 votes

Former Philippine National Police chief and Bureau of Corrections chief Ronald dela Rosa headed the first few years of Duterte’s violent war on drugs – a flawed anti-drug campaign that has been widely criticized for the thousands of deaths since 2016. (READ: The Impunity Series

In fact, he was named in the communications filed by several groups before the International Criminal Court in relation to the killings.

As Davao City police chief, Dela Rosa was also one of the respondents in a complaint filed by Edgar Matobato before the Office of the Ombudsman for the killings allegedly carried out by the Davao Death Squad (DDS). 

In August 2017, then-ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales confirmed that a preliminary investigation was ongoing.

The Office of the Ombudsman had also investigated the possible liability of Dela Rosa for accepting an all-expenses paid trip to Las Vegas from Senator Manny Pacquiao.

16,965,464 votes

Lito Lapid, who already previously served as senator, faced a graft case in relation to the fertilizer scam. The case, filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in 2015, alleged that the fertilizer he purchased while Pampanga governor in 2004 was overpriced. 

In 2016, the Sandiganbayan dismissed the case for “inordinate delay.”

AGAIN. Senator-elect Francis Tolentino finally wins a Senate seat. Photo by Angie de Silva/Rappler

15,510,026 votes

Then-Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairperson Francis Tolentino in 2015 was hit by a complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman for sponsoring a controversial dance performance at a lawmaker’s birthday party.

He was accused of violating Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and Republic Act 9710 or the Magna Carta for Women.

NUMBER ONE. Cynthia Villar tops the Senate race. Screenshot from Rappler

25,283,727 votes

Then-representative Cynthia Villar, together with her husband then-senator Manny Villar, faced plunder complaints almost more than two decades ago in relation to an alleged fraudulent deal with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

She was cleared in 2010 by the Office of the Ombudsman. –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.