By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) affirmed Tuesday the order of preliminary attachment issued by the Sandiganbayan on the assets of detained former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revillla Jr. in the P224.5 million plunder case filed against him involving the outlawed Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
A summary of the decision written by Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio stated that “the Court found that the preliminary attachment issued by the Sandiganbayan should be upheld as all the requisites for the issuance have been complied with.”
The summary prepared by the SC’s public information office (PIO) also stated:
“The writ may issue where there is an allegation of misappropriation of public funds, which is one of the predicate acts for plunder, of which Revilla stands charged. There is, thus, clearly a prima facie factual foundation for the attachment of his monies and properties.
“Under Presidential Decree No. D 1606, as amended by Republic Act No. 10660, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction to jointly determine in the same proceeding the criminal action and the corresponding civil action for the recovery of civil liability. The Rules of Court provide that preliminary attachment may be availed of in connection with the civil action that is deemed instituted with the criminal action.
Revilla challenged the Sandiganbayan’s Feb. 5, 2015 ruling on preliminary attachment and the July 10, 2015 ruling that issued the writ of attachment over his monies and properties and those of his wife Lani Mercado.
In those orders, the Sandiganbayan held that the writ of preliminary attachment “was not the penalty of forfeiture envisioned by law” as it is “an ancillary remedy that can be availed of during the pendency of a criminal case of plunder without waiting for the final resolution of the bail petition before it can be issued.”
Published reports showed that those covered by the Sandiganbayan’s writ of attachment were the 44 bank accounts of the Revillas, 15 motor vehicles, 28 real estate properties, five shares of stocks valued at P1.14 million, and a total of 12 shares in exclusive clubs and private companies.
In the same decision, the SC denied the petitions filed by Revilla’s chief of staff, lawyer Richard Cambe, and alleged pork barrel mastermind Janet Lim Napoles who both challenged the Sandiganbayan’s ruling that denied their pleas for bail.
The PIO summary stated:
“The Court dismissed the Cambe and Napoles petitions challenging the Resolutions denying them bail on the ground that the Sandiganbayan committed no grave abuse of discretion in denying bail as there was, on record, strong evidence of guilt, as required by the Constitution and the Rules of Court, to deny bail as a matter of right.
“The Court noted that, in finding strong evidence of guilt against Cambe, the Sandiganbayan considered the PDAF documents and the whistleblowers’ testimonies in finding that Cambe received, for Revilla, the amount of P103,000,000 in return for Revilla’s endorsement of the NGOs (nongovernment organizations) of Napoles as the recipients of Revilla’s PDAF. The Sandiganbayan gave weight to witness testimony on the rebates and disbursements containing Cambe’s receipt of money.
“As for Napoles, the Court considered the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) Report stating that Napoles controlled the NGOs, which were the recipients of Revilla’s PDAF. The Court found that the Sandiganbayan considered the entire record of evidence in finding strong evidence of guilt, indicative of lack of grave abuse of discretion.
“The Court was also unwilling to overturn the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan, absent any showing of grave abuse of discretion which, in this case, the Court did not find.”
At the same time, the SC denied the motions filed by Revilla, Cambe and Napoles for the transfer of their detention at the Custodial Center of the Philippine National Police in Quezon City to the facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).
The summary of the decision stated:
“The issue as to Napoles’ transfer would be mooted by her transfer to the BJMP facility in Camp Bagong Diwa.
“The Court noted that the Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion as the PNP Custodial Center is considered a jail and there is nothing in the law or rules that provide that the accused must be confined in a BJMP facility.”
In February last year, the SC declared final its decision that affirmed the filing of criminal charges for plunder and graft against Revilla Jr. and several other persons in connection with PDAF.
The decision dismissed the petitions filed by Revilla, Cambe, Napoles and her two employees Roland John Lim and Raymund de Asis; and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) officials Mario Relampagos, Rosario Salamida Nuñez, Lalaine Narag Paule, and Marilou Bare.
Revilla was charged with misusing more than P214 million in PDAF funds from 2007 to 2009.
Cambe was charged with processing the utilization, diversion, and disbursement of Revilla’s PDAF and for reportedly receiving commissions and kickbacks.
Napoles was charged as the mastermind of the PDAF irregularities through her firm as conduits for alleged ghost PDAF-funded projects. Lim and De Asis were charged with assisting in the alleged fraudulent processing and releasing of PDAF funds coursed through Napoles’ nongovernment organizations.
In the case of the DBM officials, they were charged with the speedy release of the Special Allocation Release Order (SARO) and Notice of Cash Allotment covering Revilla’s PDAF.
Plunder is a nonbailable offense.