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Stop ‘Politicizing’ Plunder Case #1MNews

MANILA, Philippines–“They are creating confusion, they want to burn the house down, implicate all so they can say the prosecution is selective.”

Levito Baligod, a private complainant in the pork barrel cases and former lawyer of the main whistle-blowers, made this statement in an interview with the Inquirer in which he said he expected more cases would be filed beginning this week in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel fund scam.

He specifically referred to an expanded affidavit submitted last week to the Department of Justice by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the diversion of lawmakers’ allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to phantom projects and kickbacks, in which she named eight more senators among her pork barrel clients.

Napoles also named Budget Secretary Florencio Abad as her PDAF scam mentor when Abad was a Batanes congressman. Abad has denied her claim.

“More cases will be filed starting Monday. We decided to do the three big ones first (Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr.) so that the case will return to the legal process instead of being diluted as a mere political issue,” Baligod said.

Baligod took part in drafting cases filed by the Department of Justice-National Bureau of Investigation (DOJ-NBI) in the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the PDAF racket.

Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, who have denied wrongdoing, are attempting to “politicize” the issue by claiming they were being singled out by the Aquino administration, said Baligod, who was lawyer for principal whistle-blowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas when the initial cases were being prepared.

Baligod said the three senators were keen on using the equal protection clause of the Constitution as a main defense tactic.
He said this was the same legal maneuver used by detained former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in successfully getting the Supreme Court decision declaring unconstitutional President Aquino’s Executive Order No. 1 creating the Philippine Truth Commission, which would have probed all the corruption and cheating scandals that marked her nine years in office.

PDAF cases

On Friday, the Ombudsman filed in the Sandiganbayan plunder charges against Senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla; Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes (Enrile’s former chief of staff), Richard Cambe (Revilla’s chief of staff) and Paulene Therese Mary C. Labayen (Estrada’s deputy chief of staff); Napoles; her fugitive brother, John Ronald Lim, and her driver-bodyguard, John Raymond de Asis.
They were among 38 individuals charged in the first pork barrel scam case filed by the DOJ-NBI in the Ombudsman last September.
The accused include former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, former Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula, former National Agribusiness Corp. president Alan Javellana, National Livelihood Development Corp. president Gondolina Amata, former Technology Resource Corp. Director General Antonio Ortiz and his deputy Dennis Cunanan (incumbent director general) and ZNAC Rubber Estate Corp. president Salvador Salacup.

The DOJ-NBI filed the second PDAF case last November against 34 individuals, including former Muntinlupa Rep. Rozzano Rufino Biazon, former Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rodolfo Valencia, former Davao del Norte Rep. Arrel Olano, former Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV, former Ilocos Sur Rep. Salacnib Baterina, former South Cotabato Rep. Arthur Pinggoy Jr. and former Davao del Sur Rep. Douglas Cagas.

‘Daang makitid’

With the Ombudsman filing the case in the Sandiganbayan just weeks before the President’s State of the Nation Address (Sona), Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said he expected the President to use Enrile, Estrada and Revilla as evidence of his administration’s anticorruption efforts.

“He will use them to boost his popularity and cover up his refusal to prosecute his allies. This is not ‘daang matuwid’ (straight path) but ‘daang makitid’ (narrow path),” Colmenares said. “The people demand the prosecution of all those involved in the PDAF anomalies and not just Malacañang’s opponents in 2016.”

But Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello said he expected the President to highlight the country’s economic gains with the filing of the plunder charges a mere sidelight of his Sona.

“Making the Napoles indictment a focus of the speech risks making it a partisan issue. I hope that the growth story will be supplemented by the recognition and espousal of social reforms as the key to sustaining economic gains,” Bello said.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

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