By: Nelson S. Badilla
EMMANUEL Joel Villanueva’s first attempt to become a senator was very successful, because he leads the 12 winners in the senatorial election that coincided with the presidential and local elections on May 9 last year.
Villanueva ran under the Liberal Party (LP), therefore, an administration candidate.
At one time, there was a news that he would be dislodge in the LP senatorial ticket because he would not win the elections as he faces P10 Million corruption charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.
If it happened, Villanueva would ran under other political parties like Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), anyway he has a lot of friends in other political parties, I remember this stand that he relayed to the media.
Villanueva’s case was connected with the P10 Billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel.
The corruption charges against Villanueva, along with others, were part of the third batch of government officials who allegedly took part in the multi-billion PDAF scam that reportedly hatched by Janet Lim Napoles and her gang.
The discovery of such multi-billion pork barrel robbery was a product of the investigation done by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) upon the instructions of then Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
After so much delay, De Lima finally decided to file the charges against Villanueva few months before the elections that involves P10 Million public funds.
Villanueva was extremely mad with what De Lima did to him.
Villanueva’s supposed corruption case could be a forgotten case if the NBI did not conduct investigation about the robbery of the public coffers.
The Office of the Ombudsman would not found sufficient grounds to ascertain that Villanueva has violated anti-graft and corruption practices law and a number of laws connected with the use/misuse of the pork barrel if the Department of Justice (DOJ) did not file charges on him at the Office of the Ombudsman.
While the elections were happening, the Office of the Ombudsman did its job.
Unfortunately, the Ombudsman finished its probe when Joel Villanueva is already a senator, a national lawmaker.
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales ordered the dismissal of Villanueva from “public service.”
The Senate, through Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III, disregarded the decision of Morales stressing that the Office of the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Senate.
However, two lawyers—Atty. Jay de Castro and Atty. Jose Sonny Matula—told me that while the argument of Pimentel was correct, the Senate could accept and threat the Office of the Ombudsman’s decision as a “complaint” and decide on the matter in favor of the Filipino people.
For me, the Office of the Ombudsman could not blame and must not be blamed when it released its decision when Villanueva was already a senator because the crime that he was supposed to have done in 2008 was only discovered and filed by the DOJ at the Office of the Ombudsman in 2015.
Let me repeat that the corruption charges worth P10 Million were only slapped on Villanueva and several others few months before the elections.
Records at the Office of the Ombudsman showed that the crime happened in 2008.
In 2008, Villanueva was a member of the House of Representatives representing the Citizens Battle Against Corruption (CIBAC) party-list group.
When the issue was hot last year, Villanueva categorically denied that he benefited from the P10 Million pork barrel.
He even emphasized that the signatures found on the documents for the entire P10 Million PDAF were not done by him.
Well, ours is country where denials of any crime are ‘acceptable’ due to the democracy that the United States built up in the late 19th and 20th Centuries in this country.
Pimentel’s decision that was given a legal framework by Senator Vicente Sotto III being the chairman of the Senator Ethics Committee, therefore, legal basis that Villanueva should not be dismissed from the Senate because the Office of the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Senate.
But despite of this, Pimentel’s gang failed to prove that Villanueva was innocent in the robbery of the P10 Million PDAF eight years ago.
However, let us make it clear that Pimentel could not categorically say that Villanueva was acquitted because the Office of the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the Senate.
The Senate boss only point was that Villanueva should remain a member of the Senate despite strong evidence to prove his guilt beyond reasonable doubt because the Office of the Ombudsman has no legal basis to order the Senate to dismiss Villanueva from the august body.
Because of this idea that is part of the Philippine Criminal Justice System, Villanueva remains an “honorable senator” until 2022.
Villanueva’s father, Brother Eddie Villanueva, the leader of the Jesus is Lord (JIL) religious group, is proud of his son.
After taking his oath as a new senator, the young Villanueva said his father was proud of him because it was his father’s wish for him to become a senator.
Villanueva should run again for senator in 2022 and should top the senatorial elections so that the Filipinos should still address him as “honorable senator.”
And Brother Eddie will remain proud of his son Joel.
We are only discussing here Villanueva’s case after the Office of the Ombudsman has done its role.
The role of the Sandiganbayan is a different matter.
If in case the Sandiganbayan acquits Villanueva due to lack of sufficient evidence that would make the honorable senator guilty beyond reasonable doubt of the crime of graft and corruption and several other crimes in the robbery of P10 Million public coffers is totally different ballgame.
Then, the Office of the Ombudsman would file a motion for reconsideration (MR) before the Sandiganbayan.
If the Sandiganbayan dismisses the MR for lack of “new” evidence that would push the justices to hold a re-trial, then the Office of the Ombudsman will elevate the case to the Supreme Court.
Let us wait what will happen in the future.
I hope that after six years, the Supreme Court will not found similar incident like what happened to the criminal cases of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where it found out that the latter did not commit a crime.