Can Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Bong Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada successfully defend themselves against the plunder charges filed against them by the government over their alleged involvement in the 10 billion peso “pork barrel” scam masterminded by businesswoman Janet Napoles?
What legal strategies will each one of them employ to overcome the biggest challenge and obstacle in their political career?
Public attention will be riveted to these two vital subjects in the months to come as all three senior senators start to lay down the groundwork of their defense.
In their complaint against the three senators, together with 35 others, the justice department, National Bureau of Investigation and former staff of Napoles alleged that Enrile, Revilla and Estrada pocketed a total of
P581 million in kickbacks from ghost development projects undertaken by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) set up by Napoles.
Enrile’s counsel Enrique de la Cruz gave on September 18 early indications of the principal anchor of his prominent client’s defense. He said Enrile didn’t sign any document that would show that he allocated his annual Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to NGOs, cited in a recent audit commission report as major culprit in the loss of up to P10 billion in taxpayers’ money to the Napoles scam. The documents that he signed were only those that earmarked funds to local government units, de la Cruz added.
More significantly, De la Cruz also said that Enrile did not authorize his former chief of staff, lawyer Jessica “Gigi” Reyes, to sign documents endorsing fake NGOs, linked to Napoles, as recipients of the senator’s PDAF.
To sum up, Enrile appears to be pinning all the blame on Reyes, who recently fled the Philippines and is said to have gone to Barbados which has no extradition treaty with the Philippines.
Poor Reyes! Rumored as long-time lover of Enrile and cause of the latter’s split with his wife, Reyes is clearly being made now as a scapegoat. This is what she gets after serving faithfully her alleged lover for decades? Betrayal? When she’s no longer in the Philippines to defend herself?
If a man apparently makes her lover take the fall for what he should in the first instance take command responsibility for as her superior, how do you regard this kind of man in Philippine society where the code of honor essentially demands a man to uphold and defend the honor and dignity of a cherished woman?
Oh, well, Enrile’s ruthlessness is hardly any surprise and is even legend. For instance, he has openly admitted faking an ambush on himself which was used by former dictator Ferdinand Marcos as one of his justifications for declaring martial law on September 21, 1972.
Can Enrile really escape prosecution by making Reyes his scapegoat?
Possibly as he attempts to exploit loopholes in the law.
But perhaps not – if principal whistleblower Benhur Luy’s statement is eventually proven true that certain accused senators and other lawmakers have agreed to receive checks or cash deposits as initial payments of their kickbacks from Napoles. Names of check recipients and receipts of bank deposits are incontrovertible proof of monies that they have received.
If Enrile, Estrada and Revilla indeed received from Napoles initial kickback payments in the form of checks or deposits into their bank accounts, they will have to come up with an airtight explanation why and for what purpose they received those monies.
As for Estrada and Revilla, they are claiming that their signatures have been forged. Revilla even offered to bring in a handwriting expert to buttress his claim.
In my view, this is a somewhat idiotic stance.
Estrada has threatened to implicate in the Napoles scam other senators in a privilege speech that he plans to make next week.
Well and good so the Filipino public will know other kleptomaniacs masquerading as senators.
But Estrada should have better sense to know that there is no way he can escape prosecution and clear his name by simply dragging some of his peers into the mud.
This early, there are ample indications that the alleged involvement of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla in the Napoles scam will seriously damage their political career.
Will this mark the start of their political demise?
Hopefully, it will.
For the benefit of Filipinos in general.