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Philippine Anti-Corruption Court called on to be decisive versus 3 Senators

by Akbayan (Citizens Action Party) Monday, Jun. 09, 2014 at 2:15 AM

Akbayan Partylist today called on the Sandiganbayan to “respond decisively” to the plunder charges formally filed against Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Juan Ponce Enrile, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., by the Office of the Ombudsman regarding the P 10 billion PDAF scam.

Philippine Anti-Corr...
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In a statement, Akbayan called on the anti-graft court to immediately issue warrants of arrest to the charged senators and to order the suspension of the accused lawmakers from the Senate.

The group also called on the court to issue hold departure orders (HDOs) against the accused parties “to prevent them from leaving the country to evade justice.”

“Prepare for war”

Akbayan Representative Walden Bello said that given the power and influence of the accused parties, the Sandiganbayan must “prepare for war” and “act with resolve.”

“Even as we have fought and won many battles in the anti-corruption front, we cannot afford to lose the war. All relevant institutions of government starting with the Sandiganbayan must get their act together and respond appropriately to this issue. On the other hand, all anti-corruption advocates and the public must close ranks to put in force our conviction to see all those who plundered the nation’s coffers are put behind bars,” Bello said.

Warrants of arrest vs. two generations of plunderers

Bello called on the Sandiganbayan to immediately call for the arrest of the accused legislators.

“At a time when obfuscation and misdirection are the weapons of the corrupt, the arrest of these public officials will create a powerful symbol to once again rally the people against unremitting and large-scale corruption,” Bello said.

“The arrests will serve justice to two generations of plunderers, one stemming as far back as the dictatorship while the other a direct beneficiary of post-Martial Law institutional pillage of our national coffers,” Bello added.

No special treatment, no hospital arrest

Bello also called on the Sandiganbayan not to provide special treatment to the accused lawmakers.

“While the charged officials are accused of carrying out extraordinary crimes, they should be treated as ordinary respondents. We call on the Sandiganbayan to reject any appeal from their camp to be accorded special treatment such as hospital arrests. It’s time that the corrupt stop making a mockery of our justice system. 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,” Bello said.

Suspension and/or resignation

Meanwhile, Akbayan Rep. Barry Gutierrez called on the Sandiganbayan to order the Senate to suspend the charged legislators.

Gutierrez also called on the senators to resign from their posts.

“We call on Sandiganbayan to immediately order the suspension of the members of the Senate formally charged before the Sandiganbayan. We also ask the three senators to resign from their posts or at the very least take a leave of absence to allay fears and suspicion that they will use their respective offices as ‘legislative foxholes’ in their attempt to outlast the cases filed against them,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez, who is also a former University of the Philippines law professor, said that Article VI, Section 16 (3) of the 1987 Philippine Constitution provides for the manner through which members of the Senate may be disciplined or suspended.

He said each House may determine the rules of its proceedings, punish its members for disorderly behavior, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of all its members, suspend a member.

Gutierrez said the suspension of the three senators would help in refurbishing the tarnished image of the Senate.

“While we believe that no less than a comprehensive package of reforms is necessary to salvage the image of our democratic institutions, the suspension and/or resignation of the three high-ranking public officials will certainly be a welcome respite. It is an important contribution in restoring the honorable image of our government,” Gutierrez said.

Hold departure orders

Akbayan also called on the Sandiganbayan to issue hold departure orders (HDOs) against the lawmakers to “limit their options to evade accountability.”

“We are all aware that high-profile personalities accused of major crimes will consider all options just to evade the hands of justice. Our history is replete with accused high-ranking public officials leaving the country in an attempt to dodge our justice system. Certainly, an order from the Sandiganbayan to bar them from leaving the country will trim down their options and increase the chances of having them convicted,” Gutierrez said.

Gutierrez said that once the cases are raffled and warrants of arrest are issued, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over the cases including the issuance of hold departure orders.

“The Sandiganbayan division should exercise its inherent power to preserve and maintain its jurisdiction over the accused senators. The issuance of the hold departure orders will ensure the attendance of the accused parties in all the proceedings in court and help in the full exercise of justice,” Gutierrez concluded

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