MANILA, Philippines—The Office of the Ombudsman filed petitions before the Sandiganbayan asking for the suspension from public office of Senators Jose “Jinggoy Estrada” and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Monday. The Ombudsman’s Office of the Special Prosecutor also called for a suspension of Revilla’s chief of staff, Richard Cambe.
“Under the Plunder Law, any public officer with a pending plunder case should be suspended from office for 90 days,” Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said in a statement.
Morales also defended the motions to amend information, saying that it will only change the form of the cases filed by her office and will not change “the theory of the cases” and that “the prosecutors were just being thorough.”
“Given the meticulous effort that entailed the preparation of the more than 100-page resolutions, the same effort went into the drafting of the two-page information,” she said.
In both cases, the prosecution cited Section 5 of the Plunder Law, or Republic Act 7080, which states any public officer facing prosecution in any court will be suspended from office.
The separate requests ask the court to suspend Estrada and Revilla from their current and future positions in public office.
The motion is set for hearing on Wednesday (July 2) before the Sandiganbayan First Division and on Thursday (July 3) before the Fifth Division.
Meanwhile, Estrada believes that the plunder and graft cases against him are “rushed” that the “due process of law was not observed” by the Office of the Ombudsman during its preliminary investigation on the scam involving billions of pesos of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of lawmakers.
“The cracks are showing. The recent developments are indicative of the fact that the cases against us were rushed and railroaded,” Estrada said via Business World. He also expressed doubts on the preliminary investigation carried out by the Ombudsman prior to the filing of plunder and graft charges against him.
“If there are ‘truckloads of evidence’ against us and that the case is ‘air tight’ as they initially, why is there a need to amend the information?” Estrada said.
During Revilla’s arraignment on June 26, the anti-graft court already dismissed the motion to amend information filed by Special Prosecutors from the Office of the Ombudsman.
The next day, the special prosecutors withdrew their motion to amend certain information on the plunder and graft case filed by the Ombudsman against Estrada, Napoles, and their alleged cohorts in the PDAF scam.
Contrary to the ruling of the Ombudsman, Cambe said he did not make a “mere denial” of his signatures in the PDAF documents but submitted “uncontroverted evidence” to confirm the signatures were forged.
“The uniform finding of two independent expert witnesses that the purported signatures of the petitioner in the PDAF documents were not affixed by the petitioner himself (hence, they are forgeries) cannot be arbitrarily rejected by the Ombudsman and to do so would be a grave abuse of discretion,” Cambe said.
Cambe along with Revilla and Estrada Jr. is now detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame following the issuance of an arrest warrant against them by the anti-graft court.
-JEFFREY D. CONSULTADO
LNU, ABCOM INTERN