Ombud denies Revilla plea to stop plunder probe

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Thursday, January 30, 2014

SENATOR Ramon Revilla Jr. will still be probed by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly amassing P224.5 million in kickbacks from ghost projects under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said Thursday she approved the joint order issued by the special panel of investigators, who found no existing "prejudicial question" to warrant the suspension of the preliminary investigation.

The same panel denied the motion of Revilla’s former staff, Richard Cambe, to stop the probe.

In a text message, Revilla's lawyer Joel Bodegon said they will ask the Ombudsman to reconsider its decision.

"The civil case and the criminal case are based on the same set of facts and circumstances, the same documents and records, the same parties, and the same issues," he said.

If the Bacoor Regional Trial Court rules that the PDAF documents are null and void, Bodegon said the Ombudsman has no reason to hold Revilla liable for plunder, a non-bailable offense punishable by life imprisonment.

But the panel held that the falsification and forgery cases filed by Revilla against pork barrel scam whistleblowers led by Benhur Luy will not influence the outcome of the criminal complaints against the senator.

For the investigators, Revilla’s civil suit was only a ploy to delay the investigation since the senator already confirmed to the Commission on Audit (COA) his signatures on the documents endorsing his PDAF to Napoles’ bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) in 2011.

Morales said any further “unfounded” attempts to suspend or delay the preliminary investigation of the PDAF cases will not be tolerated, as the cases are imbued with public interest.

Records show that several respondents have filed various motions for extension of time to file their respective counter-affidavits and other pleadings.

Morales also dismissed Revilla’s counter-charge for plunder against witnesses Luy, Merlina Suñas and Marina Sula, since the three have been admitted to the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program.

The counter-charge against Pangkabuhayan Foundation, Inc. (PFI) president Petronilla Balmaceda was, however, referred for further fact-finding investigation.

Revilla’s counter-charge against his fellow respondents Dennis Cunanan, Antonio Ortiz, Alan Javellana, Gondelina Amata, Salvador Salacup, Mylene Encarnacion, Nemesio Pablo, Evelyn De Leon, Jocelyn Piorato, John Raymund De Asis and Ronald John Lim was junked because it stems from similar, if not identical, factual allegations as those filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Field Investigation Office (FIO).

Investigators are looking at other pieces of evidence to determine if Revilla and other personalities have actually benefited from the misuse of public funds and face trial before the Sandiganbayan.

These include statements of other witnesses, business records of companies controlled by alleged scam head Janet Napoles and reports from the on-site verification conducted by investigators in various provinces where the PDAF-funded projects were implemented.

Luy used to be Napoles’ personal assistant. He said Cambe received kickbacks on behalf of Revilla.

Revilla denied the accusations in a privilege speech on January 20, calling Luy a “complete liar and manipulator.” He said Cambe was out of the country on the dates mentioned by Luy in his ledger.

He felt the complaints against him and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada are aimed at destroying the perceived political rivals of the ruling Liberal Party in the 2016 presidential elections. (With Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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