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Lawyers of 'pork' scam suspects slam prosecutor for 'vague' plunder raps.

Byline: Marc Jayson Cayabyab

MANILA -- The state special prosecutor took a blow from the lawyers of the pork barrel scam suspects over the former's move to amend the plunder charge of Senator Ramon Revilla Jr.

During Revilla's arraignment hearing before the Sandiganbayan on Thursday, counsels of Revilla and alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles battered Assistant Special Prosecutor Joefferson Toribio before the first division's Associate Justices.

The lawyers reacted to the prosecution's motion to amend the plunder case information not only of Revilla but also of Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile.

The motion to admit the amended information was eventually junked by the division after hearing all parties.

In defending their motion, Prosecutor Toribio said they only sought to clear up some of the information in the plunder sheet.

"It should not change the theory of the case. It only states additional precision which is already in the original information," Toribio told the panel.

Napoles' lawyer Stephen David told the Justices that the prosecution essentially admitted that their "information is vague."

"It proves that the amendment is because of vagueness in the information... The prosecution admitted that the information is vague," David said.

Revilla's lawyer Joel Bodegon added that the division's finding probable cause against the senator was based on information that the prosecution deemed vague.

The division panel asked Toribio if he thought their case would still hold with the original information, to which the prosecutor said yes.

"The original information is sufficient," Toribio said.

The court eventually denied the motion to admit the amended plunder information.

After the hearing, Bodegon told reporters that the prosecution's move to amend the information is a "judicial admission" that their information is vague.

"It's a judicial admission that they don't have a case against Revilla," he said.

He also said the amendment is meant to make Revilla as the mastermind instead of Napoles, just so they could make Napoles state witness.

In the amended information, the special prosecutor under the Ombudsman wants to amend the information to say alleged mastermind Napoles and her cohorts are "private individuals" who collaborated with the senators in amassing ill-gotten wealth.

They also would like to delete the phrase in one paragraph of the case that states: "enabling Napoles to misappropriate the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) proceeds for her personal gain."

The prosecutor said they amended the case information "to emphasize that the senator was the one who amassed, accumulated and acquired ill-gotten wealth in connivance or in conspiracy with his co-accused public officer and private individuals."

"The prosecutors deemed it wise to amend them to minimize, if not obviate, objections therein by certain accused which may cause undue delay in the proceedings."

The Sandiganbayan is hearing the biggest corruption scandal under the current administration - the alleged pillaging of public funds to ghost projects for kickbacks through the bogus foundations of Napoles.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 26, 2014
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