THE House independent minority bloc yesterday assailed the seeming continued political persecution of critics of the Aquino administration, demanding that Palace allies should also be charged in connection with the alleged multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.

Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez and Abakada party-list Rep. Jonathan dela Cruz scored the purported color blind attitude of the government  for not  running after allies who have been implicated also in the pork barrel scam.

Romualdez and Dela Cruz were reacting to three separate plunder indictments that were approved by the Office of the Ombudsman the other day against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and seven others for allegedly amassing a total of P597 million in kickbacks and commissions from the disbursement of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.

“We protest the deliberate delays in the filing of complaints and charges against Palace allies whose names have been mentioned in the pork barrel scam. The political persecution against critics through government’s color blind attitude must stop now. Everybody should be made answerable and accountable. Our authorities should not hesitate to go after people regardless of their political affiliation,” Romualdez, head of the House independent minority bloc, pointed out.

Dela Cruz said perception of selective prosecution could be erased if some officials of the Department of Budget and Management, Commission on Audit (CoA) and legislators identified with the Aquino administration are also charged.

“Unless the DBM and the implementing agencies and CoA and other legislators are put to task, the filing of charges against critics regarding pork barrel scam is surely a color blind operation,” Dela Cruz, a member of the Romualdez bloc, said.

Plunder case welcomed

On the other hand Quezon City Rep. Winston “ Winnie” Castelo, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), welcomed the Ombudsman decision which showed that justice is moving,  while Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting said the respondents would now be given the opportunity to defend themselves in the proper forum.

“The wheel of justice is grinding to its desired efficiency. The legal system is working. This is part of the legal processes. The accused senators will have their day in court. We can only hope that it will continue to its rightful conclusion,” said Castelo.

For his part, Tambunting said: “The indictments will provide a forum for the respondents to formally answer the charges and air their side on the controversy.”

House Deputy Majority Leader and Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list Rep. SherwinTugna expressed belief that the Office of the Ombudsman has strong cases against the respondents.

“Even if it took sometime for the Ombudsman to resolve the preliminary investigation, I am convinced that the Ombudsman has well-prepared cases because it underwent a thorough review and preparation. Trial for pork scam will proceed,” Tugna stressed.

While lauding the Ombudsman, Gabriela party-list Rep. Luzviminda “Luz” Ilagan said the indictments failed to name more respondents especially those who are allied with the Aquino administration.

“At last we are getting results! But is short of our expectations after the long-drawn out investigations. What about the co-conspirators? Where are the officials of the government agencies involved in the anomalies?  Why are the political opponents of (President) Aquino singled out?  Will the other NGOs (non-government organizations) also be investigated?   The outcome was long overdue yet anti-climactic,” Ilagan stressed.

Enrile was accused of pocketing P172 million, Revilla P242 million and Estrada P183 million supposedly paid out of their pork barrel funds channeled through selected implementing agencies and into bogus NGOs linked to businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind.

Napoles was named co-defendant in each of the cases against the three lawmakers along with John Raymond de Asis and John Ronald Lim, who were identified as officials of her NGOs.

Named in two counts in connection with Enrile and Estrada was Ruby Tuason who is hoping to turn state witness.

Also facing one plunder case each are Enrile’s chief of staff Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, Revilla’s chief political staffer Richard Cambe and Estrada’s appointments staffer Pauline Therese Mary Labayen.

Assistant Ombudsman Asryman Rafanan clarified that all the defendants still have an opportunity to file motions for reconsideration within five days upon receipt of the Ombudsman’s resolution.

He said initial moves being studied by the Ombudsman include requesting the Sandiganbayan to immediately freeze the assets of all defendants through a writ of preliminary attachment and seeking the issuance of hold departure orders against them to prevent their flight to avoid prosecution.

Plunder being a capital offense is not bailable so that all the defendants face possible arrest and detention for the duration of the trial once the cases are filed in court.

Some of the accused are also facing multiple counts of separate criminal indictments.

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