No SC relief for Bong bid to stop ‘pork’ probe
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - March 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. has failed to get immediate relief from the Supreme Court (SC) in his bid to stop the preliminary investigation of the Office of the Ombudsman on plunder and other charges filed against him in connection with the pork barrel scam.

The SC’s third division deferred action on Revilla’s prayer for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the ombudsman from proceeding with the probe.

Instead, the high court directed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to comment on Revilla’s petition before it decides on his plea for TRO. It gave the respondent 10 days from receipt of notice to comply.

The SC, however, clarified in its resolution released yesterday that it acted on the petition filed by the senator “without necessarily giving due course thereto.”

Revilla sought relief from the high court as he questioned an earlier decision of the ombudsman dismissing his bid to suspend the preliminary investigation pending resolution of the civil suit he filed against pork barrel scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy.

In the assailed order last Jan. 28, Morales held that “no prejudicial questions exist to warrant the suspension of the preliminary investigation.”

The ombudsman said there is a prejudicial question when civil action and criminal action are both pending, and there exists in the civil action an issue which must be preemptively resolved before the criminal action can proceed. The issue raised in the civil action would determine the guilt or innocence of the accused.

She explained that in the case of Revilla, the civil case for declaration of nullity of documents on sum of money and damages, which he filed against Luy with the Cavite Regional Trial Court, “has no bearing in the outcome of the criminal cases filed with the ombudsman.”

Morales indicated that the civil suit was just an afterthought and ploy to delay the criminal proceedings against Revilla.

Revilla welcomed the move of the high court taking cognizance of his petition seeking to suspend the preliminary investigation on the plunder complaint against him.

Joel Bodegon, lawyer for Revilla, said the SC resolution reaffirms the senator’s faith in the country’s highest tribunal as the final arbiter of justice.

“Then, too, it signals to the ombudsman and the other respondents that they cannot just derogate the individual’s constitutional right to due process and equal protection of laws,” Bodegon said.

“We are gratified by the SC order. It shows that the SC, upon mere reading of our petition, has found merit in it, and thus its order for the ombudsman and the other respondents such as the NBI and the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office to file comment on, not a motion to dismiss, our petition,” he added.

Jinggoy: Neophyte senator had dinner with Tuason

Meanwhile, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada revealed yesterday that a neophyte senator had dinner at the mansion of Ruby Tuason, one of the personalities involved in the pork barrel scam, in Makati City last year.

Estrada said he and the senator were invited to the so-called Malampaya mansion of Tuason in Dasmariñas Village during the campaign period in 2013.

Tuason is the former social secretary of Estrada’s father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. She reportedly became a bagman of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles.

Estrada said that only the three of them were present during that dinner where they discussed the campaign and other issues.

“There’s nothing wrong if we had dinner. Just because we had dinner does not mean that we already had dealings,” the senator said.

Estrada refused to disclose the identity of his colleague who belongs to the majority bloc.

He said the senator was close to Tuason.

Estrada had earlier said that apart from him, Tuason also visited other senators in their offices at the Senate.

Senators Juan Edgardo Angara, Grace Poe and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV, who belong to the majority bloc, all denied being the person referred to by Estrada.

Angara said that he once attended a birthday party of Tuason, who he has known since the 1990s when his father, former Senate president Edgardo Angara, ran as vice president of former President Estrada.

“I’ve been to her house before with my wife when she celebrated her birthday. I don’t recall Sen. Jinggoy being there when we went,” he said.

Poe said that she never had any meeting with Tuason before she appeared as a resource person at the Senate Blue Ribbon committee’s hearing on the pork barrel scam.

Aquino, for his part, said that it was definitely not him that Estrada was talking about.

Villar admits dinner with Ruby

Sen. Cynthia Villar admitted yesterday that she had met and dined with Tuason.

“I have known Ms. Ruby Tuason since she was the social secretary of former President Estrada. My husband, Manny Villar, was then the speaker of the House. I had dinner with Ms. Tuason and Sen. Jinggoy (Estrada) but it was purely social,” Villar said in a statement.

“She was trying to bring me closer to Sen. Jinggoy since he is planning to run for a higher position,” she added.

Villar’s husband is the president of the Nacionalista Party (NP), which has among its members Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano as well as Senators Antonio Trillanes IV, Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

The NP joined forces with the ruling Liberal Party during the 2013 senatorial elections.

Tuason, who has applied to become state witness in the pork barrel scam, had earlier claimed that she delivered millions of pesos to Estrada in his home and Senate office.

She said that she also delivered cash to the former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile at a restaurant in Taguig City.

According to Tuason, the cash represented the kickbacks of Estrada and Enrile from Napoles for the use of their pork barrel, officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund.

In the case of Estrada, Tuason said she once delivered P8 million to P10 million in cash to his sixth floor office at the Senate, which she placed in a trolley bag.

Estrada has denied the allegations and sought a review of the closed-circuit television footage of the Senate to verify Tuason’s claims.

He said the review of the CCTV footage should include the fifth floor of the Senate where offices of most senators are located.

Estrada has since turned the tables on Tuason, saying her mansion in Dasmariñas Village was sourced from her P240-million kickbacks from the Malampaya Fund scam.

No plans yet for 2016

Estrada has not yet decided if he would run for higher office after his term ends in 2016.

Estrada is being eyed by Vice President Jejomar Binay as his running mate for the 2016 presidential elections. But he said he has not given much thought to his political plans.

“I haven’t declared my intention yet in 2016. Let’s cross the bridge when we get there,” he said.

Estrada is facing a plunder complaint in relation to the pork barrel scam, which is being investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman.

He admitted that bad publicity as a result of the allegations has affected him and his plans for 2016.

However, Estrada said that he has been assessing the reception of the public to him whenever he goes around the country.

“I have been making the rounds already, and the reception is still warm. Nothing has changed,” he said.

According to Estrada, he spends a lot of time with his family and tries not to read the newspapers anymore because of the constant negative reports about him.

The senator said that he has not yet spoken with Binay, who earlier announced his plan to put up his own political party as part of his bid for the presidency in 2016.

Estrada said Binay is welcome to take over as president of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino. But if the Vice President pushes through with his new party, Estrada said it would still be part of the United Nationalist Alliance. – With Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez

BARREL ESTRADA JINGGOY OFFICE OF THE OMBUDSMAN OMBUDSMAN PORK PRESIDENT PRESIDENT ESTRADA REVILLA TUASON
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