THREE SENATORS ACCUSED OF PLUNDER NOW “FREE”

ONE VOICE

Proverbs 2:6-8
“For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.”

“For the Lord grants wisdom! From his mouth come knowledge and understanding. He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest. He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.”

DISSENTING SANDIGANBAYAN JUDGE  Maria Theresa Gomez- Esteosta could only muse in her opinion: “One need only to turn a discerning eye. Not to look the other way.”

Indeed, a lot of “common sense” and “discerning eye” went out of the window as the Sandiganbayan recently acquitted former senator Bong Revilla of plunder and instead sentenced his alleged cohorts: staff -lawyer Richard Cambe and civilian accomplice Janet Lim – Napoles to 40 years in jail.

While acquitted in the criminal case involving P 224-M( (plunder), he was still made civilly liable to return P 124-M for fortune implied to be ill-gotten wealth, and Juan de la Cruz is puzzled why he is he not jailed when the threshold for plunder cases is P 50-M and above?

Clear as mud? Yes. But for the wily lawyers -there is always a “technical way” out in choosing between the spirit and the letter of the law. The two dissenting judges used common sense which Juan de la Cruz understands.

Revilla then joins his two fellow co-accused “plunderers” – former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada “home free”.  For a moment in 2013 – the country sighed a sense of relief when under the probing guns of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales – this caused the detention in Camp Crame of the three senators for abusing the PDAF using fake foundations under “engineer” Napoles ‘ direction.

But -first, in 2015, the Supreme Court allowed Enrile’s request for bail, considering his “fragile health and advanced age “ (90 years old then) and “ to give him time to prepare his defense”. The court argued that Enrile had already served three years of “preventive incarceration” and had always shown “respect for the law” when cases were filed against him (another one for murder complex with rebellion in 1990).

We do not see any merit in the last argument-because as senator of the republic- he is expected to show the highest respect for the law. For the second argument, we know that he is now gearing for a nationwide campaign to become senator again in May.

What happened to “ health and age” issues, Supreme Court justices?

Last year, the Sandiganbayan also ordered the granting of bail for Estrada, citing reasons like he has served a long enough prison term of three years awaiting final conviction, he was not a flight risk and he is not the “main plunderer” in the PDAF case but Napoles.

But the delay in the conviction (as in justice delayed, justice denied) partly lies on the courts for not taking action quickly enough and seemingly waiting for more evidence. And then use the “long-delayed decision”  (it is partly responsible for)to grant bail and jail release.

There is a man in the Manila City Jail who has been languishing in prison for 15 long years because no decision has been made yet. Why, is he still in jail? Because he is not a senator of the republic?

And the third reason is lame because, in a “syndicated” effort like this PDAF scam, Napoles could not have made her moves without the actual (not implied) approval of the senators. Do you not agree, Juan de la Cruz.

And Cambe, who is a lawyer, would he have taken off in this dangerous expedition without the full knowledge and encouragement of his boss, Watson?

In the case of Revilla, there may have been no direct transfer of funds from Ben Hur Luy ( Napoles’ aide) to Bong Revilla’s deposit accounts. But the prosecution said- about within 30 days of the PDAF payoffs to Napoles accounts- some P 87M were reportedly credited to deposits of the accounts of the Revillas and P 127-M reportedly to the company owned by Lani Mercado, Baccor mayor and wife of Bong.

At that time, Bong was a senator and Lani a mayor -no longer able to do the “lucrative” movie and TV engagements.

The Sandiganbayan justices clarified they need more “direct evidence” in a criminal case (not perhaps a preponderance of circumstantial evidence) unlike in a civil case. But okay, for Juan de la Cruz, however ,  ordering Revilla to return P 124-M already speaks volumes, though the senator is scot-free.

The courts also said Bong Revilla’s signatures in the PDAF documents were allegedly forged – which was probably true – but this does not necessarily mean the senator had no prior knowledge and consent on the illicit transactions.

If for nothing else, Revilla should be credited for making sure his signatures were not to be found in any of the illegal PDAF documentation.

And so – the greatest corruption case in recent Philippine history (not counting those of the Marcoses) is slowly evaporating into a misty smoke while Juan de la Cruz’ faith in the justice system -Philippine style- is abundantly eroded, for sure.

We cannot help but add the very acerbic conclusion of fiery Philippine Star columnist Anna Marie Pamintuan who said:”  There is a lesson worth learning here for aides. If you’re working for a crook, remember the admonition that there is no honor among thieves and “walang iwanan” is a myth. The election in May should impart another lesson on how much we like thieves.”

Running for senatorial election in May 2019 are Enrile, Estrada, and Revilla.

For comments: email to dejarescobingo@yahoo.com or bohol-rd@mozcom.com