Santiago urges Pres. Aquino to form prosecutor panel to investigate pork barrel scam

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MANILA, July 16 (PNA) -– Feisty Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago Monday urged President Benigno Aquino III to form prosecutor panel that will investigate the alleged P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam.

“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.

Santiago was referring to at least 28 legislators, including five senators, when she said “persons of interest” even as she called on her five colleagues implicated in the scam to go on leave of absence pending investigation by a special presidential of prosecutors.

“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 Santiago called “persons of interest,” have reportedly released for ghost projects solicited by a fake non-government organization headed by a certain Jeanette Lim-Napoles.

They are senators Ramon Revilla, Jr. who reportedly released a total of P1.017 billion to Napoles’ alleged fake NGO; former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile who gave P641.65 million; Senate Pro-Tempore President Jinggoy Estrada, P585 million; Ferdinand Marcos Jr., P100million; and, Gregorio Honasan; P15 million.

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.

Sen. Francis Escudero has already filed a Senate resolution urging the Senate blue ribbon committee to investigate the alleged pork barrel scam.

On the other hand, Sen. Franklin Drilon said Senate inquiry should only come in after the ongoing investigation of the DOJ and NBI. (Jelly Musico/Media ng Bayan)

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