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69 bishops back Panlilio plunder case vs Bong Pineda

By Tonette Orejas
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 05:21:00 07/11/2008

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Casinos & Gambling, Gaming & Lotteries

ANGELES CITY?A plunder case filed by Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio against suspected ?jueteng? lord Rodolfo ?Bong? Pineda with the Ombudsman has the blessings of at least 69 bishops.

In a letter of appeal they signed, the bishops asked the anti-graft body to ?really attend to the merits? of the case filed by Panlilio, a Catholic priest on leave from his ministry, on June 23.

Pampanga Bishop Pablo Virgilio David Thursday said the 69 signatories were among the 80 bishops who attended the plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops? Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) last weekend.

The bishops asked the Ombudsman in their letter to look into the participation of Pineda in the plunder case for which ousted President Joseph Estrada was convicted by the Sandiganbayan in September 2007.

?In the whole trial of Estrada, the name of Bong Pineda was mentioned several times. But he was dropped along the way. He has been free and no case was filed against him,? David said.

Panlilio?s complaint was raised during the meeting by Bishop Broderick Pabillo, director of the CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action, on the request of the Pampanga Anti-Gambling Council (PAGC), a multisectoral group seeking a stop to all forms of gambling in Pampanga province.

With Panlilio, the PAGC has introduced livelihood support for people involved in jueteng, an illegal numbers game, and has waged an information campaign urging bettors to stop patronizing the underground lottery.

?Jueteng Vatican?

Pampanga was once dubbed the ?Jueteng Vatican? of the Philippines by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. due to the continued proliferation of jueteng.

The PAGC also questioned the way the government-sanctioned small town lottery (STL) was operated, charging it was being used as a jueteng front.

David said the bishops ?really and positively responded? to the clamor of the PAGC to support the plunder case filed by Panlilio against Pineda, husband of losing gubernatorial candidate Lilia Pineda.

Individual signatories

David clarified that the bishops? letter was not endorsed by the CBCP but was signed by the bishops individually. Pabillo drafted the letter after the bishops discussed the issue on Saturday.

Msgr. Juanito Figura, CBCP secretary general, was tasked with handing the letter over to Ombudsman Mercedita Gutierrez.

Former Ombudsman Aniano Desierto left out Pineda in the April 4, 2001, charges and in the April 19, 2001, amended charges, according to Panlilio?s lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr.

?[Pineda] can qualify as among the John Does cited in the decision that at the same time cited the testimonies of [former Ilocos Sur] Gov. [Luis ?Chavit?] Singson and other witnesses,? Francisco said in an earlier interview.

In his complaint, Panlilio said the exclusion of Pineda from the Estrada plunder case ?constitutes a gross oversight of justice which must be remedied, and which this complaint seeks to rectify.?

P2M monthly to Erap

Affidavits and transcripts of hearings showed that Singson had said Pineda gave P2 million to Estrada every month, raising this to P4 million monthly to deal with the difficult ?media.?

Panlilio said the ?evidence presented by the [Office of the Special Prosecutor] was sufficient to prove the guilt of former President Joseph Estrada beyond reasonable doubt. Undeniably, a finding from the [Office of the Special Prosecutor] of the existence of mere probable cause for criminal prosecution against [Pineda] is more than warranted.?

Francisco said Pineda may be charged with plunder because Republic Act No. 7080, or the anti-plunder law, stated that ?any person who participated with said public officer in the commission of an offense contributing to the crime of plunder shall likewise be punished for such offense.?

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