What’s the difference: Plunder, graft in PDAF issue?

Reynaldo Santos Jr

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What’s the difference: Plunder, graft in PDAF issue?
The plunder case looks at the senators' alleged commissions, while the graft case focuses on the senators' illegal diversion of funds to fake NGOs

MANILA, Philippines – At least two cases against 3 Philippine senators and their conduits believed to be involved in the controversial pork barrel scam have already been officially filed before the country’s anti-graft court. 

Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr, and Jinggoy Estrada were charged with plunder on June 6, and were subsequently charged with graft on June 9. Alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Napoles and the senators’ staff are included in one or both cases.

While both the plunder and graft cases link those accused with the country’s biggest corruption scandal in recent history, they focus on different aspects of the issue.

The plunder case looked at the senators’ commissions from questionable projects financed via their development assistance funds.

The graft case, on the other hand, focused on the senators’ illegal diversion of their development funds to fake non-governmental organizations.

Here’s a closer look at the country’s laws on plunder and graft, and what awaits the senators and their conduits. See what differentiates the two crimes.

Republic Act 7080 (An Act Defining and Penalizing the Crime of Plunder)

The law states that a public official can be charged with plunder if the accused has accumulated wealth amounting to at least P50 million through any of the following methods:

  1. misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds
  2. receiving any commission, gift, share, percentage, kickbacks or any other form of pecuniary benefit from any person and/or entity in connection with any government contract or project
  3. illegal or fraudulent conveyance or disposition of assets belonging to the government
  4. obtaining, receiving or accepting any shares of stock, equity or any other form of interest or participation including the promise of future employment in any business enterprise or undertaking
  5. establishing agricultural, industrial or commercial monopolies or other combinations and/or implementation of decrees and orders intended to benefit particular persons or special interests
  6. taking undue advantage of official position, authority, relationship, connection or influence to unjustly enrich himself or themselves at the expense and to the damage and prejudice of the country and its people

According to the findings of the Ombudsman’s probe, Revilla got P242-million worth of kickbacks from the scam, followed by Estrada with P183 million, and Enrile with P172 million.

Also charged with plunder are: 

  • Napoles
  • her driver-bodyguard John Raymond de Asis 
  • her nephew John Ronald Lim
  • Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes
  • Estrada’s appointments staff Pauline Therese Mary Labayen
  • Revilla’s chief political staff Richard Cambe

The law states that those found guilty of plunder shall be punished by life imprisonment, perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any public office, and government seizure of assets for whatever amount they gained.

Any individual who participated in the commission of the unlawful acts stated in the law will also be punished, depending on the degree of his involvement.

The law also states: “It shall not be necessary to prove each and every criminal act done by the accused in furtherance of the scheme or conspiracy to amass, accumulate or acquire ill-gotten wealth, it being sufficient to establish beyond reasonable doubt a pattern of overt or criminal acts indicative of the overall unlawful scheme or conspiracy.”

Plunder is a non-bailable offense.

Republic Act 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act)

The law, which was approved in 1960, provides a long list of prohibited acts for public officials, all listed in Sections 3 to 7 of the law itself.

In the graft case filed against the senators, they are accused of violating Section 3(e) of the law, which states that it is unlawful to:

Cause any undue injury to any party, including the Government, or giving any private party any unwarranted benefits, advantage or preference in the discharge of his official administrative or judicial functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence. This provision shall apply to officers and employees of offices or government corporations charged with the grant of licenses or permits or other concessions. 

The senators allegedly endorsed to various implementing agencies the NGOs controlled by Napoles so these could siphon off their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF). The amount and number of endorsed NGOs per senator are as follows: 

  • around P345 million from Enrile’s PDAF diverted to 6 NGOs
  • around P517 million from Revilla’s PDAF diverted to 5 NGOs
  • around P278 million from Estrada’s PDAF diverted to 2 NGOs

Also charged with graft were officials of the state firm Technology Resource Center (TRC), among them former director general Dennis Cunanan.

Violation of Sections 3 to 6 of the law is punishable by imprisonment of 6 years and 1 month to 15 years.

Violation of Section 7, which refers to wealth declaration of public officials, on the other hand, is punishable with a fine of P1,000 to P5,000 or imprisonment of up to 1 year and 6 months, or both.

Just like in plunder, violators of this law also face permanent disqualification from public office, and government seizure of assets for whatever amount they gained.

“Graft and corruption” is one of the grounds for an official’s impeachment, based on the Constitution.

The law adds: “No public officer shall be allowed to resign or retire pending an investigation, criminal or administrative, or pending a prosecution against him.”

The Ombudsman counted the Special Allotment Release Orders (SAROs) issued by the budget department – in the names of the 3 senators – to the dubious NGOs to determine how many times each of the accused committed graft:

  • Revilla faces 16 counts of graft along with Cambe, Napoles, and De Asis
  • Enrile faces 15 counts of graft ialong with Reyes, Napoles, Lim, and De Asis
  • Estrada faces 11 counts of graft along with Labayen, Napoles, and De Asis

– Rappler.com

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