‘Let truth, justice prevail’
Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) - June 21, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Let truth and justice prevail, Malacañang said yesterday as Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and 32 others were ordered arrested by the Sandiganbayan on charges of graft and plunder.

“The issuance of warrants of arrest against Senator Revilla and others implicated in the plunder case pertaining to the alleged misuse of public funds is a significant step forward in the judicial process,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

Coloma reiterated the government’s assurance to all accused of a fair trial.

“We believe that through a fair and just trial, accountability will be clearly established and in like manner, those who are innocent will be exonerated. We join the citizenry in hoping that truth and justice will prevail,” he said.

A lawmaker, however, said Malacañang should not crow over the detention of Revilla and the impending arrests of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada as “the biggest plunderers in the Aquino administration are still free.”

Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan said the arrests “should not obfuscate the glaring reality that the biggest pork disbursements came from the President himself and that there are several more that should be investigated and made accountable for their involvement in the pork barrel scam, including allies of the President.”

Ilagan said Aquino’s disbursement of over P150 billion under the so-called Disbursement Acceleration Program is an exercise of entitlement and political patronage and should be considered as a pork barrel transaction.

She said Revilla, Estrada and Enrile as well as their staff do not even make half of those previously listed and identified by principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy and suspected pork barrel fund scam operator Janet Lim-Napoles in her tell-all affidavit.

“Those charged are very few. Let’s not forget that there are still many who should be held accountable,” Ilagan said in Filipino.

“The arrest of senators is something that the President will most likely brag about during the State of the Nation Address to cover up the fact that under his administration, the biggest plunderers roam free while his economic policies continue to trap millions in poverty,” Ilagan said.

The party-list group Akbayan called for the suspension of the three senators accused in the pork barrel fund scam.

Rep. Ibarra Gutierrez said the Sandiganbayan, after finding probable cause against the three and ordering their arrest, should suspend them as members of the Senate.

“Their suspension will prevent them from using the Senate as a bully pulpit to continue to muddle the cases lodged against them and a step toward restoring the reputable image of our democratic institutions,” he said.

Gutierrez said the Sandiganbayan has the power to suspend officials facing plunder and graft charges.

Aside from the three senators, legislative and executive officials charged with them should also be suspended, he said.

Akbayan also criticized what it described as the “condo-like” detention center built by the Philippine National Police for the three senators inside Camp Crame.

Gutierrez’s colleague Walden Bello said Estrada, Revilla and Enrile “should be treated as ordinary respondents.”

“The public must see that the brand of justice applied by the government to ordinary people is the same one enforced to the high and mighty,” he said.

He said the Sandiganbayan should “reject any appeal from the accused to be accorded special treatment such as hospital and house arrests or to be transferred to a special jail facility where living conditions are better than the average household.”

Bello also described Revilla’s arrest yesterday as a “breath of fresh air.”

“Today is a ‘Thank God it’s Friday’ kind of day. After the people mounted a mammoth rally last year to hold accountable all those who have plundered the nation’s coffers, they are now seeing the fruit of their collective struggle. The wheels of justice are already cranked into motion,” Bello said.

“The momentum of exacting justice must be sustained and even accelerated,” he said.

Revilla, Napoles and 31 others were charged with one count of plunder and 16 counts of graft in a four-page resolution signed by First Division chairman Associate Justice Efren de la Cruz on Thursday.– With Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz



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