Indicted

THE Philippine Constitution defines plunder “as 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 Filipino people and the Republic of the Philippines.”
According to Article 2 of the Philippine Republic Act No. 7080 or the plunder law, “any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt criminal acts in the aggregate amount or total value of at least Fifty million pesos (P50,000,000.00) shall be guilty of the crime of plunder and shall be punished by reclusion perpetua or permanent imprisonment. Any person who participated with the said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense.”
When news broke on the P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam (or better known as the pork barrel scam) in July last year, names that were dragged into the alleged misuse of government funds have come under increased scrutiny.
Since then, evidence have piled up. Notable witnesses took the stand to convict principal players to the apparent abuse of power in the government. But as months went by, even after rigid investigation conducted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, it appears that justice is being delayed by complex procedural appeals.
On April 1, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered the filing of plunder and graft and corruption charges against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, and Jinggoy Estrada, for their alleged involvement in siphoning off their pork barrel funds to bogus non-government organization (NGOs).
Janet Lim-Napoles (the alleged mastermind), several senior staff of the senators and other names involved in the controversy are also included in the plunder cases to be filed before the Sandiganbayan.
On that same day, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee also completed its own investigation on the PDAF scam.
In its own recommendation, the panel asked the committee on ethics and privileges to conduct its own investigation on the accusations of plunder against Senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada.
If indicted in the Senate, the accused senators would be expelled from their posts in the Senate.
Meanwhile, Sen. Estrada describes the double whammy as a well-synchronized “April Fools’ Day” operation.
“First, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee came out with a committee report, recommending the filing of plunder charges against me and two of my colleagues and several others. Second, not to be outdone, the Office of  the Ombudsman, held a press con also [recommending] the filing of plunder charges against the three   senators,”  he told the media on April 1.
Estrada reiterated his stand: that he has “no knowledge or participation in the transfer of PDAF to anyone other than to the legally intended beneficiaries.”
Estrada and the rest of the respondents were only given five days, within which they need to file their motion for reconsideration, to quash the indictment.
“The wheels of justice are moving forward,” said Presidential Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. about the decision of the ombudsman to indict the principal players of the pork barrel scam.
The DOJ also hailed this noteworthy development. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that this is a “first step, a major one, towards making those involved accountable for their plunder and misuse of the people’s money.”
The problem lies, not just merely on the perceived dishonesty of some Filipino politicians. The pork barrel scam has also degenerated the political situation in the country as well.
From here on out, the Philippine government stands in a parlous position. Every riveting detail of this entire process will bring consciousness to the nation that has been subjected to this hullabaloo.
Until justice is truly served, it is up to the citizenry to remain vigilant — not to be duped ever again by political farces nor allow future anomalies to happen again in the government.
(AJPress)

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