MANILA, Philippines -The Office of the Ombudsman and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, after conducting separate investigations, came out with a ruling that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. , Janet Lim-Napoles and six others were criminally liable for plunder and graft in connection with the alleged illegal disbursements of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
The recommendations of a five-member special panel that found probable cause to file plunder and graft charges against three lawmakers were approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales through three joint resolutions.
The statement from the office of the Ombudsman said, “On the charges for plunder, the joint resolutions concluded that the three senators took undue advantage of their official position to illegally divert, in connivance with certain respondents, their respective PDAF allocations to the Napoles NGOs, in exchange for kickbacks/commission amounting to more than P172 million, P242 million, and P183 million in the case of senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada, respectively, with the PDAF-funded projects turning out to be “ghost” projects, under a modus operandi of a combination and series of overt criminal acts repeatedly taking place over a number of years.”
“The crime of plunder under Republic Act 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Law is punishable by reclusion perpetua (to death} and forfeiture of the ill-gotten wealth in favor of the government,” the statement added.
On the violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, the joint resolutions found out that the respondents “conspired in causing undue injury to the government in the amounts of P345 million, P517 million, and P278 million from the PDAF of senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada, respectively by receiving in evident bad faith, kickbacks or portions of the diverted amount, and by being manifestly partial in the selection of Napoles NGOsand the conduit implementing agencies, which resulted in unwarranted benefit, preference or advantage to the Napoles NGOs, which were chosen without the benefit of public bidding and which supposed(ly) turned out to be ‘ghost’ projects.”
Six other individuals charged with plunder were Napoles’ driver-bodyguard John Raymond de Asis, listed as official of Kaupdanan para sa Magsasaka Foundation Incorporation, Napoles’ nephew John Ronald Lim, listed as official of Ginintuang Alay sa Magsasaka Foundation Incorporated, Ruby Tuason, self-confessed bagman who has applied to become state witness, Richard Cambe, chief political staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, chief of staff and Pauline Therese Mary Labayen, appointments staff.
The following counts of graft charges have also been approved for filing with the Sandiganbayan:
- 42 counts against Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos
- 16 counts against Revilla, Cambe, Napoles, and De Asis involving P517 million
- 15 counts against Enrile, Reyes, Napoles, Lim De Asis, and Tuason involving a total of P345 million
- 11 counts against Estrada, Labayen, Tuason, Napoles, and De Asis involving P278 million
The defendants are given 5 days upon receipt of the Ombudsman’s resolution to file their motion for reconsideration.
Upon the request of the Office of the Ombudsman, a writ of preliminary attachment to immediately freeze the assets of all defendants may be issued by the Sandiganbayan.
The Ombudsman, according to Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan, is also seeking to issue hold departure orders against all 10 defendants.
Meanwhile, the Blue Ribbon committee report stressed that “an institutional purging is needed once and for all.”
“Approximately 80 percent of the PDAF has been lost probably due to corruption. If this manner of using PDAF is descriptive of how other government funds are disbursed, then corruption is an endemic cancer insidiously spreading, and leading our government to absolute ruin.”
The PDAF scam is the biggest and most controversial corruption scandal in recent Philippine history, as this is also the first time senators are indicted for plunder.