Ombudsman finds senators Enrile, Estrada and Revilla liable for plunder and graft in PDAF scam

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MANILA, Philippines — The Office of the Ombudsman found senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., liable for plunder, saying they took “undue advantage of their official position” in the use of their pork barrel funds.

Aside from plunder, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales also said that the three senators were also liable for graft for allegedly receiving multi-million peso kickbacks in exchange for funneling their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to fake nongovernment organizations of businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

Morales approved the recommendation of the five-member special panel that found probable cause to file plunder and graft charges against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

She also approved the recommendation to file the same charges against Napoles.napoles

The charges against the public officials will be filed before the Sandiganbayan.

The joint resolutions found out that the respondents “conspired in causing undue injury to the government in the amounts of P345 million, P517 million, and P278 million from the PDAF of senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada, respectively by receiving kickbacks or portions of the diverted amount.

They were also considered liable for plunder and graft by being manifestly partial in the selection of Napoles NGOs and the conduit implementing agencies, which resulted in unwarranted benefit, preference or advantage to the Napoles NGOs that were chosen.

A statement from the Ombudsman said: “On the charges for plunder, the joint resolutions concluded that the three senators took undue advantage of their official position to illegally divert, in connivance with certain respondents, their respective PDAF allocations to the Napoles NGOs, in exchange for kickbacks/commission amounting to more than P172 million, P242 million, and P183 million in the case of senators Enrile, Revilla, and Estrada, respectively, with the PDAF-funded projects turning out to be “ghost” projects, under a modus operandi of a combination and series of of overt criminal acts repeatedly taking place over a number of years.”

According to the Ombudsman, Republic Act 7080 or the Anti-Plunder Law provides for reclusion perpetua (to death} and forfeiture of the ill-gotten wealth in favor of the government as punishment for those who will violate the law.

The Ombudsman also found Enrile’s former chief of staff, Atty. Gigi Reyes, Ruby Tuason, and Atty. Richard Cambe, Pauleen Labayen who were former staffmembers of Revilla and Estrada respectively.

A certain Ronald John Lim at John Raymond de Asis were also to be included in charge sheet.

The Ombudsman gave the respondents five days to file their motion for reconsideration.

Separately, the senate also gave a panel report that recommended the filing of criminal charges against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.

Senate Blue Ribbon chair Sen. Teofisto Guingona III gave reporters a preview of the senate panel’s recommendation to file criminal charges against the three senators.

The panel chaired by Guingona III also proposed criminal charges against six other individuals: Napoles, former National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) president Allan Javellana, former Technology Resource Center (TRC) director general Antonio Ortiz, and the senators’ PDAF “agents” Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes who is the former chief of staff of Enrile, Pauline Labayen, the former apointments secretary of Estrada, and Richard Cambe, a senior staffer of Revilla.

Enrile’s camp has declined to make any comment on the matter.  Revilla and Estrada said they would be filing their motion for reconsideration.