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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Mockery of justice

 

Imelda Marcos

The much long awaited arm of the law has finally caught Imelda Marcos’s sticky fingers and most Filipinos rejoiced declaring the special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court’s conviction of her on seven counts of graft as victory for the people.

Imelda was found to have made a total of $200-million bank transfers to seven Swiss foundations of her own creation during her incumbency as Metro Manila Governor. Not only that. She and her despot husband were also found deliberately using aliases to hide the crime.

This means that the 89-year old widow now faces a sentence that will keep her incarcerated for over forty years, if indeed the penalty from six to eleven years for each count of graft happens to be the case.

But, is it time for rejoicing really?

By victory the people would have expected that with the conviction immediately thereafter a warrant for her arrest would follow.

Alas, it did not come to that. On the contrary, Imelda, a congress representative from Ilocos Norte, continues to enjoy freedom after she posted bail of P150,000. It said that the Sandiganbayan allowed her to post bail while it is still deciding whether or not to grant her appeal for post-conviction remedies.

If this is not a mockery of justice, I don’t know what is.

This is the same mockery of justice observed when former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, then 92 years old, was freed after spending a year in hospital arrest when he posted P1.45-million bail bond over the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.

Certainly among the post-conviction remedies to be discussed is age consideration and if it was able to release Enrile, why would it still send Imelda to jail especially that she is also having health issues?

This would not have been disturbing and frustrating if we knew that there are not old, sickly people languishing in jail as this piece is written, but the reality is that there are plenty and for reasons that some may be inside because of miscarriage of justice.

The same cannot be said, however, of Enrile, and now of Imelda Marcos.

Justice is suppose to be triumph over evil, but in the case of Imelda, and even for Enrile, evil still favors giving mercy to the privileged.

Perhaps Orson Welles was right when he said, “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

Imelda’s guilty verdict

Imelda Marcos

After so much wishing and praying for something to prick the ever ballooning ego of each of the remaining Marcos family starting from the wife down to the three children after a glorious political comeback, the decision of the Sandiganbayan declaring guilty and ordering the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos on seven counts of graft committed during the reign of her husband and former dictator Ferdinand Marcos could never have been a more appropriate answer.

The reason for their exceeding arrogance is the fact that they had been going around the country trying to rewrite history by convincing people that the dictatorship was the best thing that ever happened to the country, that there was no crime committed, no human rights violated, and nothing stolen from the coffers of government.

What added even more to the bluster of the Marcos family is the fact that today the despot patriarch is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ cemetery) after years of being kept in a crypt.

Imelda has been found guilty of violating R. A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when she transferred around $200 million to seven Swiss foundations during her term as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa, as Metro Manila Governor, and as then Minister of Human Settlements.

The anti-corruption court’s 5th Division ordered Imelda, a congresswoman, to serve six to 11 years in jail for each of the seven counts of graft.

Now it can be said that Imelda did not only have a cabinet full of shoes and expensive jewelry and artworks, but inside and in a more secluded place of the cabinet were Swiss foundation skeletons bearing the names Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Vibur Foundation, Aguamina Foundation and Avertina Foundation which they allegedly created and managed under the pseudonyms William Saunders and Jane Ryan.

This probably gives credence to the allegations made before by the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth “is estimated between US$5 billion to US$10 billion, the bulk of it being deposited and hidden abroad”.

The question now is, would the children, especially politicians Imee and Bongbong, still have the arrogance to deny this conviction of Imelda after it took decades to decide it or will this decision get them grounded with humility in tow?

Wasn’t this writing on the wall when President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted that Imelda offered to return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth, including a few gold bars, for whatever help it can do to the country’s economy?

While this may be a victory of sorts for all the people who have experienced the dark days of martial law, the moral fight against the Marcoses continue since they can still make an appeal at the Supreme Court for a reversal of the conviction.

But what the aggrieved Filipinos are asking at least is that Imelda be arrested just like any ordinary citizen in the country that has been declared guilty and are praying once more that Duterte won’t pardon her. Let the verdict of the law fall where it may and without regard to age.

Imelda, who is on her last term as Ilocos Norte representative and has already filed a certificate of candidacy for the province’s gubernatorial race in 2019 is sane enough, therefore, to understand that she has committed a crime and answerable for it and that neither age nor stature should make her feel she is above the law.

 

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.

Enrile’s suspicious visit to Malacañang

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile visiting Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile visiting Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

For anybody who has been following the political life of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile one cannot help but be suspicious about the circumstances of his much publicized visit to Malacañang for a one-on-one tete-a-tete with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Enrile made a sucker of the Sandiganbayan when the court where government officials, from the President of the Philippines down to the lowest ranked public servant, are prosecuted, ordered for his release after posting bail totaling P1.45 million for the plunder and graft cases filed against him over a multibillion-peso pork barrel scam supposedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Before his release Enrile had been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital in Camp Crame for a little over a year.

Two of his co-accused — former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revila — remain detained in Camp Crame, at the PNP Custodial Center.

Also in detention to this day for the same offense is Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

The court said the Enrile should be granted temporary freedom because of his old age and frail health, which did not make him a flight risk.

Enrile may not be a flight risk until now that he has fully regained back his health, but he continues to remain astute as he has always been known to be and his once temporary freedom, for all intents and purpose, is now a permanent one.

Or so it seems because while Enrile may have posted a bail he is still an accused out on bail for humanitarian reasons, but now that he is back in the pink of health the Sandiganbayan should send him back to the PNP Custodial Center for that is where he belongs in reality.

In fact Enrile is strong enough now that he has been able to visit Duterte in Malacañang and reportedly handed the latter a letter and three books that apparently contained unsolicited counsel/guide to help the president address the country’s problems.

Despite presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella’s claim that the meeting of the two political personalities was social in nature that included discussions on “current developments”, still it raised eyebrows of many Filipinos concerned about corrupt politicians on what really was the motive of Enrile’s visit.

We cannot help but hope that Duterte will stay his course and his commitment to the nation that he will have no mercy to those involved in illegal drugs, corruption and criminality that have caused near perdition to the hopes and aspirations of many Filipinos.

Duterte must resolve plunder cases of politicians and cohorts immediately

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte

It is very encouraging to know that the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan has recently denied the motion of lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, a cohort of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, to dismiss the plunder case against her.

Reyes, a former chief of staff of Enrile, is facing plunder   charges over her involvement in the pork barrel fund scam. She allegedly earned some P173 million in commissions on projects funded by the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Enrile.

Although old and sickly, and granted bail for humanitarian reason, I hope Enrile is not off the hook from the plunder case that he, too, is facing.

But what I am just saying here is that since President Rodrigo Duterte has also declared war against corruption in government, the people should be making a lot of noise for him to expedite the resolution of plunder cases against politicians and their cohorts involved in the infamous P10-billion pesos Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam if he is really serious in eliminating this evil, as he has been against illegal drugs.

Before the Ombudsman starts filing corruption cases against new Duterte targets, it would add to the people’s encouragement, especially those supporting and contributing to Duterte’s high approval and trust ratings, if those lingering in detention and awaiting verdict, the likes of former Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla and their cohorts, will have their cases against them decided already before more are added to the list.

The Binays, Jejomar and Jejomar Jr., may not be among those involved in the PDAF scam, but both are also facing plunder charges during their fiefdom-like rule in Makati City that are just as appalling and despicable if found to be true.

One could just imagine if any of these big-named politicians made it to be leaders of this country again and Duterte failed to be elected president.

Holy shit! What tremendous disaster it would have been for the country!

I think Duterte owes it to the country and the Filipino people that the plunder cases against the above-mentioned politicians and their cohorts be resolved first before naming and shaming new ones.

As we all had high expectations for Duterte’s success in his war against illegal drugs, we have also high anticipation that he will accomplish the act of putting the plunderers in jail for good if only for the unscrupulous public servants to pay the price for making poor Filipinos suffer more because of power, arrogance and greed.

 

Welcoming Duterte while saying good riddance to Enrile, Estrada and Revilla

 

Outgoing Senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada

Outgoing Senators Enrile, Revilla and Estrada

For Filipinos who gave president-elect Rodrigo Duterte a blank check mandate to rid the country of corrupt public officials, among others, I don’t know if there is anybody who will miss public servants in the senate the likes of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla who are bowing out from service.

Where Estrada and Revilla are still to this day, which is at the PNP Detention Center in Camp Crame, is more the appropriate place they belong to than in the august chamber of the senate.

Enrile would have been with his cohorts still if not for his age and failing health but, alas, the Supreme Court allowed the granting of bail after his hospital detention pending the trial of the plunder and graft charges against him.

To this day we are continuing to heave a sigh of relief that the same has not been granted to Estrada and Revilla who faces the same plunder and graft charges in the Sandiganbayan (a special court that has jurisdiction criminal and civil cases which involve graft and corrupt practices and other offenses committed by public officers and employees in relation to their office) over the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

I say this because one could just imagine that if Estrada and Revilla were granted bail and with both eying for the presidency or vice presidency, could there have been a Duterte winning, given the propensity of Filipinos voting for the underdog? No doubt that is how both would have brewed themselves to be and their competence as an actor could have heavily swayed voters.

Many may not like Duterte’s uncouth manners and language, but better this kind of a person to lead the country who is fearless, decisive with strong political will and who has the interest of the country and welfare of the people first and foremost than having an incompetent, corrupt person, and an actor to boot, governing the country.

So let us stop being virtuous. We had been victims all these godforsaken years by seemingly honorable politicians in the guise of public servants.

It is not about expletives that come out of the mouth. It is about ones determined action to uplift the lives of the Filipinos under a peaceful, stable and progressive country.

So let us welcome Duterte, warts and all, and wish him luck, while saying good riddance to Enrile, Estrada and Revilla.