MANILA – The Supreme Court (SC) has started an investigation of charges linking Sandiganbayan (anti-graft court) Senior Justice Gregory Ong to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of the multibillion-peso pork barrel fund scam.
SC spokesman Theodore Te said the high court has directed Ong to comment on sworn allegations by whistle-blowers Benhur Luy and Marina Sula during a Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing on Sept. 26.
The whistle-blowers had identified Ong as one of the VIPs who visited Napoles in her office at the Discovery Suites in Ortigas. They added Ong was frequently seen attending her parties.
The whistle-blowers also identified four lawyers as associates of Napoles. They are Mark Oliveros, Editha Talaboc, Raymond Tansip and Joshua Lapuz.
The lawyers allegedly notarized documents of Napoles’ JLN Corp. for its projects that received funding from the Malampaya fund.
The witnesses claimed the lawyers even left a dry seal in Napoles’ office, as well as specimen signatures, notary books and stamp pads for use by JLN employees.
The SC also directed the four lawyers to comment on the allegations against them.
The high tribunal gave Ong and the four lawyers 10 days to comply with the order.
Te explained the SC directive was motu propio, meaning the high court had initiated the action on its own.
In August, an online news website published a photo of Ong partying with Napoles and Sen. Jinggoy Estrada.
Ong was a member of the Sandiganbayan’s fourth division that had cleared Napoles in the Kevlar helmet case involving ghost purchase of 500 Kevlar helmets using government funds in 1998.
Ong has voluntarily submitted himself to the investigation of the high court in a letter he sent to Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno last Sept. 26.
Ong said the photo could not have been taken in 2010 or earlier. He said he and Estrada are old friends dating back to 1994.
“Be that as it may, it is undisputed, however, that I was standing to the right of Senator Estrada to have my picture taken with him. I have no control whether other guests (in this case, Mrs. Napoles, who was standing to his left) would also want to be photographed with us,” Ong said in the letter.
Ong also belied favoring Napoles, saying the Kevlar helmet case was dismissed by the members of the court division that acted as a collegial body. (Philippine Star)