The Sandiganbayan’s despairing decision

 

Enrile, Revilla and Estrada, all accused of plunder over the multi-billion PDAF scam are now enjoying freedom.

This is about the latest decision of the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, acquitting former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla of plunder after the latter was accused of surreptitiously pocketing P224.5 million worth of kickbacks in what is now known as the country’s biggest corruption scandal involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a yearly lump sum or discretionary fund that members of Congress use for government programs to benefit the people, most especially the poor.

It used to be that before the Supreme Court nullified the PDAF, after the P10-billion pork barrel scam was uncovered, a senator and a member of the House of Representative were entitled to P200 million and P70 million  in PDAF, respectively.

One can just imagine, therefore, the enormous amount of money that Revilla, together with then senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, have squandered when the Commission on Audit (COA) found out in 2013 that each of their 2007-2009 PDAF went to phony non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ghost projects masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, instead of being funneled to a legitimate government organization, as was the intention, to alleviate and improve the quality of lives of the poor Filipinos.

It was on this basis that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed plunder cases that ultimately led to their arrest.

But while Enrile was granted freedom for humanitarian reasons in 2015, being sickly and old, and Estrada freed in 2017, after the anti-graft court ruled that “there was no strong evidence” that he was the “main plunderer” in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla, however, stayed detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame until the announcement of his acquittal recently.

For many who have been yearning that convicting the three ex-senators for plunder will not only be a moral victory for the Filipino people, but a lesson taught for politicians to truly work for the interest of the people first as they have been sworn to do, the latest Revilla episode is indeed a very despairing decision. It simply means that acquittal also awaits Enrile and Estrada in due time.

We thought lady justice had finally snared the big fishes. Alas, like ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before them, they three got off the hook cheerfully to the dismay of many.

Yes, despairing, but does this mean giving up hope? Of course not!

You see, Enrile looks hale and hearty again and is in fact running for senator in 2019 elections. So is, Estrada and Revilla, who have always expressed their intentions to make a comeback at the propitious time.

On the part of the aggrieved Filipinos smarting from the seemingly unjust ruling, I could not see a more opportune time than in next year’s senatorial elections for them to exact retribution for Enrille’s, Estrada’s and Revilla’s misdeeds and dubious ambitions. All we have to do now is start talking and convincing other people that this is going to be payback time and not having any of them and their ilk elected to the senate ever again is doing our country a big favor.

This is a collective exercise of poetic justice at its best.

 

 

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Scandalous Jinggoy never learns

Former senator JinggoyEstrada

I am talking of course about former senator Jinggoy Estrada, who until today and after spending 3 years in detention for plunder and graft charges relative to the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), seems to have never learned to change his old ways.

The reason why I am emphasizing his individuality and ethos is because Estrada, an actor and a failed senator, is contemplating again in running for senator, and to think that he is just out on bail momentarily.

As if the plunder and graft charges against him are not shameful and degrading to his persona, enough to put him at the higher pedestal of corrupt government officials, it, however, shows no negative effect on him as he continues to beguile Filipinos with impunity.

Take for instance Estrada’s application for a travel motion to go to the US from April 21 to May 31, 2018. Accordingly, the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan granted the motion on March 26 since it is a simple travel motion that the court almost always grants for defendants.

The problem, however, is that the scheming Estrada, not contented with just the travel motion request to the US, flaunted it as having been invited to speak in Michigan on Philippine affairs, and it was upon the invitation of the US Pinoys for Good Governance (USPGG).

It was even reported that Estrada attached an invitation from William Dechavez, identified in the letter as USPGG president.

Apparently, this grandstanding by Estrada was debunked by no less than the incumbent USPGG president himself, Mr. Rodel Rodis, who issued a statement, saying: “I can confirm that there is no planned USPGG event on May 20 in Michigan. I communicated with Mr Wllie Dechavez, our USPGG Michigan chair, and he made no plans for this event as he is in the Philippines for a vacation and he has not been in touch with his members in Michigan.”

If this is not another reprehensible and dastardly act by Estrada, worthy of condemnation and boycott on his senatorial run again, I do not know what is.

Because of this fraudulent turn of events, the Ombudsman prosecutors told the Sandiganbayan: “With this information, the prosecution is constrained to pray that the Honorable Court hold in abeyance the issuance of the travel authority of accused Estrada since accused appears to have committed material misrepresentations in his motion, thus openly violating one of the terms and conditions of the court in allowing an accused to travel.

They added: “Allowing accused Estrada to travel to the United States with the consequence of making him beyond the reach of the Honorable Court, despite the falsity of the purported invitation letter, may constitute a travesty of justice.”

Jinggoy with President Duterte at the Palarong Pambansa 2018.opening.

Yet, unabashedly, Estrada continues his odious quest for a slot in the PDP-Laban senatorial slate for 2019 by working hard to be under the good graces of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Look how Estrada tries hard to ingratiate himself to the president by showing his slavish subservience – shaking the president’s hand and bowing so low.

Ex-President Arroyo back in detention

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

Former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA) has been doing what a normal reelectionist politician does upto the filing of her certificate of candidacy for the 2013 elections, but a day after she learned that the Sandiganbayan, an anti-graft court, had issued an arrest order for her, she immediately sought admission at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center (VMMC) for her lingering spinal illness.

Apparently, the Sandiganbayan denied GMA’s motion for reconsideration of the arrest warrant filed by her lawyers, saying it found “no cogent reason to modify or disturb” its earlier order for her arrest. The court affirmed that she “performed various acts” to “surreptitiously divert public funds sourced from PCSO’s operating budget for personal gain.”

And so they proceeded to serve the warrant against her inside the VMMC presidential suite. “Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is now under the custody and detention of the Philippine National Police,” Senior Superintendent Napoleon Coronel told reporters outside the hospital shortly after she was arrested.

It will be noted that GMA has been out on bail since late July for the electoral sabotage case filed against her in connection with the 2007 senatorial elections. She had spent eight months in hospital arrest since Nov. 15 last year, first at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig City, then at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center starting last December until she was granted bail.

Since then, GMA has been in and out of VMMC undergoing therapy for her displaced titanium implant in her spine. She has also tried an alternative treatment facility in Tagaytay City, as well as tap water and salt water treatments.

This time around, however, is different as the plunder case she faces is a non-bailable offense.

The plunder case filed against GMA is for her alleged misuse of a P366-million intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office.

Whether this new case will aggravate GMA’s condition or not remains to be seen.

What is important is to get on with the case now that the Sandiganbayan feels that they have a strong case against the former president.

“We do not file cases if we do not believe that our evidence is strong,” President Aquino said. “We do not file cases only to be embarrassed in the end because we have a weak case.”

“We have been criticized why it took us some time to file cases but we just want to make sure we will be able to hold accountable those who violated our laws,” he added.

Well and good. This is what the people would like to see happening. And there is no better example, than seeing a former leader suffer the consequences of her action.

Let the wheel of justice move diligently and expeditiously so we will get this scandalous case over with, but not at the expense of having a false martyr glorified if, God forbids, something happens to her.

Marcos kleptocracy still haunts us today

It continues to remain mind-boggling how a blatant crime committed by the Filipino despot Marcos 27 years ago is haunting us even today.

The latest ruling by the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, ordering Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Romualdez Marcos to return P10 million of the alleged illegally withdrawn money from the National Food Authority (NFA) that was deposited to the strongman’s private account 27  years ago (in 1983), is simply reliving the sordid past we had under the dictatorial regime.

“The unaccounted and unjustified transfer of the P10-million NFA funds to a private bank was highly irregular and illegal,” read the decision.

There is legitimacy in the decision by the Sandiganbayan, but at the same time, can there be finality and closure to this dark episode in our nation’s history?

Can there be an absolute retribution from the Marcoses for the alleged stolen wealth from the government coffers and the purportedly brazen crimes committed against the nation and its people now that the Marcos family is back in power?

What this is simply, is a shameless show of impotency by government in the useless charade of going after the Marcoses, the glaring mockery of justice, and the continued, naked affront of the sensitivities of the Filipino people.

Can government act decisively, once and for all, against whatever they have on the Marcoses?