By Czarina Nicole Ong
After former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s certificate of candidacy (COC) was filed Wednesday morning by his wife, Bacoor Mayor Lani Mercado, people began to wonder – would his possible plunder conviction disqualify him from public office?
Revilla is facing one plunder charge and 16 counts of graft before the Sandiganbayan First Division because of the reported misuse of his priority development assistance fund (PDAF), which he allegedly endorsed to the bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) owned by Janet Lim Napoles in exchange for kickbacks amounting to P224,512,500.
The plunder trial ended on August 9. Revilla’s legal team has already submitted for decision its memorandum, while the prosecution handed in its comment. It is only a matter of time before the Sandiganbayan makes a ruling – guilty or not guilty.
If Revilla is acquitted, then there is no stopping his political plans this 2019. But if he is convicted, would he be disqualified?
Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang answered no. “Conviction per se is not a disqualification,” she explained. “The judgment of conviction must be final and executory. This means that the judgment of conviction is ripe for execution which is realized by the service of the sentence by the convicted accused.”
“So, if there is a pending motion for reconsideration of or appeal from the judgment of conviction, the disqualification does not yet attach,” she added.
Because of his plunder charge, Revilla remains locked up in the Philippine National Police (PNP) Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City. Former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, who are likewise facing plunder charges, have already gotten out of jail.
Enrile was already able to post bail for his jail sentence out of humanitarian considerations, while Estrada was allowed to post bail amounting to P1,330,000 – P1 million for plunder, and P330,000 for his 11 graft charges.
Estrada was accused of pocketing P183 million, while Enrile reportedly received P172 million. Revilla was said to have pocketed the highest amount – P242 million.
As for their graft charges, Revilla has the most number of cases. He was slapped with 16 counts in violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, while Enrile has 15 and Estrada has 11.