5 Napoles-linked solons face plunder raps
MANILA, Philippines–Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has finally approved the filing of plunder and graft charges against five former members of the House of Representatives for taking about P300 million in kickbacks from projects funded by their pork barrel, which they allegedly channeled to the bogus foundations of accused scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.
The five are former Masbate Rep. and incumbent Gov. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, who allegedly took P112.29 million in kickbacks; former Apec party-list Rep. Edgar Valdez, P95 million; former Agusan del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza, P42.1 million; former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa, P26.7 million; and former Cagayan de Oro Rep. Constantino Jaraula, P20.8 million.
The five were also charged with malversation of public funds and bribery.
In another pork barrel case, the Sandiganbayan on Thursday issued a freeze order for the bank deposits and properties of detained Sen. Bong Revilla to prevent him and his family from disposing of their assets pending his trial on plunder and graft charges, court sources said.
Petition for freeze order
The Ombudsman has also filed an urgent motion to freeze the bank deposits and properties of detained Sen. Jinggoy Estrada worth P184 million to prevent him from dissipating his assets pending his trial on plunder and graft charges.
At least three court officials confirmed that the Sandiganbayan’s First Division granted the petition for the issuance of a writ of garnishment and attachment filed by Ombudsman prosecutors for Revilla’s properties.
Revilla is accused of pocketing P224.5 million from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, which he allegedly channeled to Napoles’ bogus foundations.
Director Joefferson Toribio, a member of the prosecution panel, also confirmed that the court approved the prosecution’s request to freeze Revilla’s assets.
“The prosecution panel welcomes this positive action by the court,” Toribio said in a text message to the Inquirer.
“It’s an important step in ensuring a full accountability of Sen. Bong Revilla’s liability if and when judgment is rendered against him by the court,” he added.
The Ombudsman was to file charges in the Sandiganbayan against the five former House members later on Thursday, Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan said.
The five were part of the first batch of lawmakers that the Ombudsman had found to have abused their pork barrel along with Revilla, Estrada and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
Enrile has also been charged with plunder and graft in the Sandiganbayan. He is detained at Philippine National Police General Hospital in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
The plunder and graft charges against the three senators were filed in June last year. Estrada and Revilla are detained at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame.
Napoles was also indicted in the latest filing of pork barrel cases covering PDAF releases from 2007 to 2009, as well as Napoles’ employee John Raymund de Asis, Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos and three members of his staff—Rosario Nuñez, Lalaine Paule and Marilou Bare.
The officers indicted from the implementing agencies are Technology Resource Center Director General Antonio Ortiz, Deputy Director General Dennis Cunanan, department manager Francisco Figura, and chief accountant Marivic Jover; National Agri-Business Corp. president Alan Javellana, paralegal Victor Roman Cacal, general services unit head Romulo Relevo, bookkeeper Maria Ninez Guañizo, chief accountant Ma. Julie Villaralvo-Johnson, and director for financial management services Rhodora Mendoza; and National Livelihood Development Corp. president Gondelina Amata, division chief Gregoria Buenaventura, director Emmanuel Alexis Sevidal, chief financial specialist Sofia Cruz, and department manager Chita Jalandoni.
In Revilla’s case, the prosecution asked the court to immediately freeze Revilla’s assets to prevent the senator from concealing or disposing of his properties following the denial of his bail petition.
The prosecutors said Revilla might use his position as “a powerful and influential political figure” to prevent the government from confiscating his properties should the antigraft court order the forfeiture of his assets.
They said the court’s Dec. 1, 2014, ruling, which junked Revilla’s petition for bail, only made urgent the resolution of its Oct. 27, 2014, motion for a writ of preliminary attachment.
The writ of preliminary attachment or garnishment is similar to a freeze order issued by the lower courts.
“The denial of [Revilla’s petition for] bail … signals that there is more than ample substance in the [prosecution’s] case against him, and that the case is neither frivolous nor unmeritorious,” the prosecutors said.
Proper and justified
“Therefore, [the prosecution’s] prayer to attach accused Revilla’s properties as security for a judgment of forfeiture that this Honorable Court may render against him has become even more proper and justifiable,” they said.
The prosecutors argued that it was “prudent and necessary” for the court to secure Revilla’s bank deposits, cars, real estate properties and other assets after its ruling made a “categorical, albeit preliminary, finding of strong evidence of guilt” against the senator.
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