Press Release
July 15, 2013


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, in a speech yesterday (July 15) before the Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants, reacted to the news that five senators are implicated in the P100B scam by urging them to go on leave of absence pending investigation by a special presidential panel of prosecutors to be appointed by President Aquino.

"Out of delicadeza, the five senators should go on leave, to erase any doubt that they might use their power or their money to pressure the investigators," she said.

The five senators, whom she called "persons of interest," have reportedly released for ghost projects solicited by an NGO the following amounts from their pork barrel:

Ramon Revilla, Jr. - P 1.017B
Juan Ponce Enrile - P 641.65M
Jinggoy Estrada - P 585 M
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. - P 100M
Gregorio Honasan - P 15M

"A senator cannot be impeached. A senator cannot be charged before the Ombudsman, because under the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over senators. A senator can be subjected to preliminary investigation by the prosecution service under the Department of Justice. But the justice secretary, being a cabinet member, is always solicitous of the desires and wishes of a senator, for fear that they might concoct an investigation against her, or they might cut-off her budgetary appropriation," Santiago sad.

Santiago said that under the Constitution, the Senate committee on ethics and privileges may investigate for improper behavior a senator, and may even impose the penalty of removal from office.

"But the empirical history shows that senators are loath to investigate their fellow senators, much less expel their colleague. So that would be a futile route," she said.

Instead, citing the adage that "justice delayed is justice denied," Santiago urged President Aquino to follow the practice of the American president, who appoints a Public Prosecutor to handle the prosecution of egregious scams and scandals in government.

"This panel should be composed of three people who are beyond the reach of politicians. Accordingly, I humbly propose that the panel should be composed of retired Supreme Court justices, like Ameurfina Melencio Herrera and Flerida Ruth Romero," Santiago said.

Santiago, a former RTC judge, said that although the "persons of interest" are entitled to presumption of innocence, prima facie evidence has been given against them.

"The testimony of the eye witness, his affidavits and supporting documents already constitute prima facie evidence. Therefore, it becomes the duty of the "persons in interest" to adduce evidence to overcome the prima facie case. If not, they should be immediately charged in the Sandiganbayan," Santiago said.

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