Janet Napoles to serve a lifetime in jail over PDAF scam

Marje Pelayo   •   December 7, 2018   •   7329

FILE PHOTO: Janet Lim Napoles

QUEZON CITY, Philippines – The Sandiganbayan has sentenced ‘pork barrel’ scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles and Richard Cambe a lifetime in jail as the anti-graft court on Friday (December 7) acquitted Cambe’s former boss, former senator Ramon ‘Bong’ Revilla Jr.

Napoles and Cambe were sentenced to ‘reclusion perpetua’ or 40 years imprisonment.

Based on the decision of the Sandiganbayan Special Fifth Division, the prosecution failed to prove that Revilla was guilty of amassing P224.5M from his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to support Napoles’ fake foundations.

The court also ruled that it was Cambe who was guilty of misusing the funds.

The Sandiganbayan also ordered Napoles, Cambe and Revilla to return P124 million in line with the case.

With the conviction, Napoles will remain inside the Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong while Cambe, who was previously detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center, will be transferred to the New Bilibid Prison.

On June 2014, the Office of the Ombudsman filed plunder cases before the Sandiganbayan against Revilla and his colleagues, former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada. Napoles and Cambe were among the co-accused.

Enrile, then 92-years-old, was allowed bail due to old age, while the court said evidence failed to establish that Estrada was the main plunderer in the case.

The case is dubbed as the biggest corruption case decided by the Sandiganbayan to date. – Marje Pelayo | UNTV News & Rescue

Lacson calls on colleagues to bare amendments in 2020 budget bill

Robie de Guzman   •   November 5, 2019

Senator Panfilo Lacson

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Panfilo Lacson on Tuesday challenged his fellow lawmakers to bare the amendments they made to the proposed 2020 national budget following his allegations that billions-worth of “pork” funds were “parked” in the budget bill.

Lacson said such a show of transparency would dispel suspicions that the amendments are stained with “pork barrel” funds.

“We should make everything public. That includes all amendments we submit, whether institutional or individual,” Lacson said in an interview on DZBB radio.

“Most if not all lawmakers have their own websites. Why not post their amendments there, for the public to scrutinize?” he added.

Lacson lamented that in previous years, some lawmakers submit their amendments to their respective finance or appropriations chairpersons without having them go through floor deliberations.

“Instead of having their amendments undergo scrutiny in-floor deliberations, some lawmakers propose their amendments verbally, or even scribble them on napkins,” he said.

The lawmaker said that during Congress’ deliberation on the 2019 budget, he used his website to post his proposed institutional changes.

Institutional amendments pertain to programs and projects that have undergone planning and vetting, and are based on requests from concerned implementing agencies.

Lacson said such institutional amendments are proposed by lawmakers who find merit in them after vetting with relevant agencies.

Individual amendments, meanwhile, pertain to projects based mainly on lawmakers’ intervention and are considered legislators’ pet projects.

“In most cases, these do not involve consultations with the implementing agencies concerned, nor are they part of the Local Development Plans of the Local Government Units,” Lacson said.

He added that such programs can be considered pork barrel, based on the 2013 ruling of the Supreme Court that deems as unconstitutional projects that are “whimsical and arbitrary.”

The 2013 Supreme Court ruling declaring pork barrel as unconstitutional covers “all informal practices of similar import and effect, which the Court similarly deems to be acts of grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

In pushing for transparency in the national budget, Lacson said people have the right to know where their taxes are going, especially amid the country’s growing debt that now stands at more than P7.9 trillion.

“The national budget involves the people’s money. It should benefit the people and not a few senators or congressmen or even government officials who implement projects. And the budget is funded by our taxes, as well as borrowings if our tax collections fall short,” he said.

READ: Sen. Lacson urged to identify questionable P20-B in proposed 2020 national budget

Sandiganbayan dismisses P1-B civil case vs Marcoses

Aileen Cerrudo   •   October 8, 2019

Philippines First Lady and current congresswoman Imelda Marcos (2-L) when she visited the tomb of former strongman Ferdinand Marcos to mark National Heroes Day at the ‘Libingan ng mga Bayani’ (Cemetery of Heroes) in Taguig City, south of Manila, Philippines, 28 August 2017. EPA-EFE/FRANCIS R. MALASIG

The second division of the Sandiganbayan has dismissed the civil case filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) against former President Ferdinand Marcos and wife Imelda Marcos for insufficient evidence over P1 billion worth of alleged ill-gotten wealth.

Based on the decision of the anti-graft court, the PCGG failed to present strong evidence against the Marcoses.

“The plaintiff Republic failed to prove by preponderance of evidence that the defendants by themselves, or in conspiracy with defendants Marcoses, obtained ill-gotten wealth,” the decision reads.

“Lastly, the court also finds that the defendants failed to prove their respective counterclaims alluding to alleged damages sustained.”

According to the Malacañang, the PCGG can still submit an appeal in the Supreme Court.

Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the Marcoses should still be accountable if there is proof of ill-gotten wealth.

“Kung ill-gotten, we should always run after, basta ill-gotten (If it is ill-gotten we should always run after, as long as it is ill-gotten). It should be the policy of all governments to run after ill-gotten wealth,” he said.

The Sandiganbayan previously dismissed the P102 billion worth of forfeiture case against the Marcoses and other respondents last August.—AAC (with reports from Rosalie Coz)

Lacson releases copy of Castro’s lobby letter seeking P258 million

Aileen Cerrudo   •   September 27, 2019

Senator Panfilo Lacson has released a copy of Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro’s alleged lobby letter seeking financial assistance worth P258 million.

In a statement published on Thursday (September 26), Lacson belied Castro’s statement that the said letter was ‘fictional.’

“In a letter dated Sept. 19, 2019, Capiz Rep. Fredenil Castro lobbied with Sen. Lacson for financial assistance to construct a municipal building for Dumalag town, costing P258 million,” the statement reads.

Lacson also posted on Twitter that Castro and his co-conspirators in the House had allegedly illegally inserted P95B in the 2019 national budget which was vetoed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

On Thursday Castro said the letter was not related to pork barrel.

“It was not a lobby letter. It’s a letter-request just like any other letters I sent to other senators,” he said in a statement. “Lobbying is different. My letter-request shows my resolve to help my constituents. It’s not pork barrel.”—AAC

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