Ombud tasked to comment on Revilla plea to stop pork scam probe

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

SPECIAL investigators under the Office of the Ombudsman were ordered by the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday to comment within 10 days on the petition of Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. to stop the anti-graft body from investigating him for alleged corruption of pork barrel funds.

Also required to file an explanation were the Ombudsman's Field Investigation Office, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) and Levito Baligod, former lawyer of main whistleblower Benhur Luy, according to a notice issued by the SC Third Division.

Revilla assailed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales' orders dated January 28 and March 3, which found no existing "prejudicial question" to warrant the suspension of the preliminary investigation on plunder charges filed by the NBI against the senator.

The lawmaker allegedly amassed P224.5 million in kickbacks from ghost projects under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The Ombudsman held that the falsification and forgery cases filed by Revilla against Luy and other whistleblowers in a Cavite court 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 Janet Napoles' bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) in 2011.

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 (DOJ) 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 NBI and 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 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 the senator's staff, Richard 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. (Sunnex)

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