Suspects in the the pork barrel scam who were able to leave for abroad may have been tipped off about the impending criminal cases against them, considering their names were previously implicated by the in the multibillion-peso scandal, the Justice secretary said Friday.
"I am inclined more to believe na intentional ang pag-alis. Maaaring nagkaroon ng advance information," Justice chief Leila De Lima told reporters in an interview, citing the suspects in the alleged diversion of Priority Development Assistance Fund of some senators and congressmen through bogus projects.
The suspects could have easily realized they would be implicated in the fund mess, since some of them have already been mentioned in the media – before formal charges of plunder, malversation, bribery and graft and corruption were filed against them before the Office of the Ombudsman.
Among those charged by the government were Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr., and Jinggoy Estrada, all of whom are in the Philippines. Thirty-five of their co-accused have all been listed on a lookout bulletin, which means government would be alerted should any of them try to leave the country.
Six of the co-respondents in the criminal cases have left for abroad before cases were filed, according to the Bureau of Immigration on Thursday. They are:
- Rodofo Plaza (left PHL Sept. 11)
- Dennis Cunanan (Sept. 13)
- Pablo Nemecio Jr. (May 22, 2010).
Their absence, however, would not affect the case and investigation by the Ombudsman and the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft and Corruption Committee, De Lima. "The case will proceed with or without the respondents," she added.
The Justice chief ordered the Immigration Bureau to where the suspects went and why they left the country.
"Much as we want to give them the benefit of the doubt... baka naman may legitimate purpose of travel... that... probably... nagkataon lang na mayroon talaga silang lakad... it has nothing to do with them being charged or about to be charged when they left the country," she said.
The government is trying to find out those who left for abroad were "namesakes or have similar names" with those named in the charge sheet.
"But we would know... Kung 'di sya sumipot, so that means siya ito," De Lima noted.
The Department of Justice and the National Bureau of Investigation intend to file separate malversation charges against the foundations of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles for allegedly misusing P900 million from the royalty of the Malampaya Deepwater Gas-to-Power project, an offshore gas field in Northwest Palawan.
"I cannot yet confirm what day exactly next week but our target is really next week. In fact, titignan ko siguro ngayon iyong progress ng preparation. How far and how feasible it is to be able to really file next week," De Lima said. – VS, GMA News