Prosecutors ask Sandigan to suspend Estrada, Revilla

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Monday, June 30, 2014

MANILA -- Government prosecutors asked the Sandiganbayan on Monday to suspend Senators Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. and Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada, who are facing plunder and graft charges in connection with the alleged misuse of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

In separate motions, the Ombudsman's Office of the Special Prosecutor asked the Sandiganbayan first and fifth divisions to suspend Revilla and Estrada as senators.

Aside from Revilla, the prosecution also asked the first division to suspend the senator's aide, Richard Cambe, another accused in the plunder case who is occupying a Director III position.

Government prosecutors also asked for the suspension of Estrada's deputy chief of staff, Pauline Labayen.

Cambe surrendered to authorities while Labayen went into hiding.

Under the plunder law or Republic Act (RA) 7080 as amended, the Ombudsman said that any public officer against whom a criminal prosecution under valid information for plunder is pending in court shall be suspended from office.

The prosecution said the jurisprudence sets the period of suspension pendente lite (awaiting litigation) at 90 days.

The prosecution did not seek for the suspension of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, who is also accused of plunder for allegedly pocketing P172-million in PDAF funds, as the Sandiganbayan third division has yet to resolve his pending motions.

[READ: Prosecution withdraws amended plunder vs Enrile]

Meanwhile, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales defended the prosecution panel's earlier move to amend the information for plunder, saying the amendments were a matter of form and did not change the charges.

"The prosecutors were just being thorough," Morales said, citing the rule that information may be amended as a matter of right before arraignment.

"The statements of the defense are mere speculations that are favorable to their client," Morales said.

Morales urged the public to remain vigilant in thwarting efforts to mislead the public and continue in helping build a "corruption-intolerant" society. (Sunnex)

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