By Azer Parrocha
MANILA, 4Sept2013 (PNA) – Criminal charges should be filed against the five solons involved in the ‘pork barrel’ scam, Senator Miriam Santiago said Wednesday, stressing that they should even be life imprisoned.
Santiago said the government must file criminal charges against the solons because there were affidavits executed by eye witnesses before the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation) that already constitutes evidence.
“These whistleblowers — or at least most of them — appear to be eye witnesses; their testimony has strong weight in law and evidence,” Santiago told Senate reporters in a press briefing.
“The strongest evidence for prosecution is always the testimony of an eye witness,” she added, explaining that it was regarded as prima facie or a probable cause.
She said that this happens when a document constitutes sufficient logic and reason to justify action by government.
“Kung walang katuturan talaga—wala kang kaso, pero kung meron ka at least as semblance, prima facie evidence or probable cause,” Santiago said.
“Then you file the complaint in court.”
The senator then explained that once the case is filed by a fiscal in court, the fiscal can recommend bail but in this case, a crime of plunder is non-bailable.
“The moment senators have cases filed against them, immediately they will have to be detained,” Santiago said.
‘Catch them at plunder’
Santiago explained that if the government does not file charges despite affidavits, then “government anger will remain un-appeased”.
“My recommendation is, if there is enough evidence with the NBI, referred to the three person committee: secretary of justice, ombudsman and COA (Commission on Audit) chair, the case must be referred for preliminary investigation to the Dept. of Justice,” Santiago said.
“Once it is finished, the case can be filed in court. The prosecutor must request the judge to show warrant and there will be no bail—no immunity,” she further said.
“We want to catch them at plunder [but] here are other loopholes they can escape through. I want life imprisonment and beyond that if possible,” she added.
As for those 70 year old solons excluded from criminal libel under the penal code, Santiago said that while it was true that they were exempted from being detained, they were not exempted from being charged.
“He (referring to a particular solon above 70 years old she did not identify) will still go down in history. That should be his own punishment,” she said.
When asked if she would visit any of her fellow senators in case any of them get detained, Santiago said: “I won’t visit them, but I will send them CDs of my speeches.” (PNA)