Guilty or not guilty: Revilla’s plunder verdict out Friday

Published December 6, 2018, 3:16 PM

by Patrick Garcia

By Czarina Nicole Ong

The plunder case of former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. will finally come to a close Friday as the Sandiganbayan First Division hands him a guilty or not guilty verdict.

MB File — Detained Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. leaves the Sandiganbayan courtroom after the first day of his pre-trial for his plunder and graft charges, May 21, 2015, at Quezon City (Mark Balmores) | Manila Bulletin
Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (Mark Balmores / Manila Bulletin File Photo)

Revilla’s plunder case, which has been ongoing since 2014, is in relation to 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.

On June 20, 2014, after an arrest warrant was issued against him, Revilla voluntarily surrendered before the anti-graft court and chose to be detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Revilla will be the first among his peers – former Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada – to face promulgation for their plunder charges in relation to the PDAF scam.

Among the three, Revilla was said to have pocketed the highest amount – P242 million. Estrada was accused of pocketing P183 million, while Enrile reportedly received P172 million.

For the graft charges, Revilla has the most number of cases, with 16 counts in violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. 3019, also known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; Enrile has 15 and Estrada, 11.

Enrile was already able to post bail for his jail sentence out of humanitarian considerations, and Estrada was granted bail last year because of the main plunderer doctrine. Only Revilla remains detained.

The three have plans to run for office this 2019. Revilla’s wife, Bacoor Mayor Lani Mercado, filed his certificate of candidacy on October 17. Whether he is convicted or not, his senatorial bid would not be affected because his possible conviction is not yet final and executory.

“Conviction per se is not a disqualification,” explained Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang. “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.

Revilla’s camp remains hopeful for an acquittal, especially since several pork barrel scam witnesses denied ever meeting or giving money to Revilla.

One of them is Marlina Sula, who was reduced to tears after she admitted that Revilla had no hand in the signing of endorsement letters for the NGOs of Napoles. She also said that she was coaxed by the prosecution to support the testimony of fellow whistleblower, Benhur Luy.

When asked by Revilla’s lawyer Reody Anthony Balisi if she knew whether Revilla had first-hand knowledge on the projects being implemented under his PDAF, she answered no. Sula also denied meeting Revilla while she was still working for Napoles.

Despite what happened, Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano said in an interview that they remain hopeful. He did not think that the case was heavily affected by Sula’s statements since Luy’s testimony is still “intact.”

The First Division is comprised of Chairperson is Efren Dela Cruz and Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Edgardo Caldona. All three of them have to reach the same conclusion for a decision to be promulgated.

If one of them dissents, a special division will be created with two special members from other divisions. They will be chosen by drawing lots. After which, the majority vote will be the one that is promulgated.

Aside from Revilla, the anti-graft court will also promulgate on the plunder charges of Revilla’s staff, Atty. Richard Cambe and Napoles.

Balisi said that their camp has no statement for tomorrow’s promulgation, but they “pray for the best” in tomorrow’s outcome.

Meanwhile, Atty. Levito Baligod, former counsel of Luy, said in a statement that people should just “accept whatever be the veridct.” However, he is worried because he personally witnessed Mercado say in a huge gathering in Tacloban City last November 7 that “a decision will be promulgated this December” and that her husband will be acquitted.

“Prescience?” he questioned.

For her part, fromer Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said that there is enough evidence to convict Revilla.

“I am not going to attnd the promulgation. Gven the evidence the office gathered, if I were a judge, I would CONVICT him. Period,” said Morales.