3 ex-senators in pork scam running again
Detained former Sen. Bong Revilla entered the 2019 race for the Senate on Wednesday, completing the senatorial triumvirate implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam that is trying to return to power.
Revilla, through his wife, reelectionist Bacoor Mayor Lani Mercado, filed a certificate of candidacy (COC) for the Senate at the Commission on Elections (Comelec) main office in Intramuros, Manila.
Two others accused in the pork barrel scam, former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, registered for the senatorial race on Tuesday.
The three are accused of graft and plunder for allegedly pocketing hundreds of millions of pesos in kickbacks in the scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, who is facing the same charges and is jailed in Taguig City.
Enrile and Estrada are out on bail. Revilla’s efforts to regain his freedom while under trial have been unsuccessful.
Not convicted yet
The cases against the three men are no hindrance to their bid for reelection to the Senate.
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje-Tang said on Wednesday that until the defendants had been convicted with finality, they could not be disqualified from holding public office.
“The mere pendency of a criminal case is not a disqualifying circumstance,” Tang told reporters.
“The judgment of conviction must be final and executory. This means that the judgment of conviction is ripe for execution, which is realized by the service of the sentence by the convicted accused,” she said.
Several public officials accused of corruption and plunder have registered for the congressional and local elections, including former Masbate Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, who is appealing to the Supreme Court her dismissal as governor by the Ombudsman over the pork barrel scam.
Former Vice President Jejomar Binay Sr. and former Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin Binay Jr., both facing trial for alleged overpricing in the construction of the Makati City Hall car park and Makati Science High School, are also running—the father for the House of Representatives and the son, for mayor.
In a statement read for him by his wife, Revilla said he was running for a third term in the Senate because he wanted to help solve the problems facing Filipinos.
Love of country
“They may have imprisoned me but they cannot imprison my love for my country,” Revilla said.
Mercado expressed confidence that detention would have no negative impact on the comeback bid of her husband, who is running as a candidate of Lakas-CMD, the party of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now the Speaker of the House.
“The truth will come out. I believe justice will prevail,” Mercado said.
Mercado said she and her husband were expecting the court’s decision to go in their favor. They are expecting the decision to come down by Dec. 10, she said.
But no matter the situation, she said they had agreed that they would campaign for Revilla as a family.
Like Revilla, Estrada is confident that his alleged role in the pork barrel scam will not negatively affect his campaign, similar to his situation in 2004 when he was elected to the Senate despite plunder charges that had been filed against him.
Enrile’s lawyer filed a COC for him on Tuesday but he returned to the Comelec on Wednesday to revise his registration.
According to the original filing, Enrile is running as an independent candidate.
In the revision, he is running as a candidate of Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), the party of former President Joseph Estrada, who is now mayor of Manila.
Despite being charged with plunder, a nonbailable offense, Enrile, 94, was allowed bail due to his frail health.
His run for a fifth term in the Senate has made critics say that if he is strong enough to mount a campaign, he is strong enough to be detained.
To this, Enrile said: “I’ll leave it to the courts. If they want to cancel my bail, I leave it to them.”
Enrile explained that his small room at Camp Crame made him “physically infirm.”
“If I stayed there until today, maybe I’m dead now, I’m not running for the Senate. But because I was released, I was mobile. I go to my province every month by car and it added to my stamina. That’s why I can still stand today and walk erect,” he said.
If he wins, Enrile will be the oldest candidate to be elected to the Senate. He will be 101 when he completes his term in 2024.
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