) — The Sandiganbayan acquitted on Friday former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. from plunder charges for the misuse of over P224.5 million worth of public funds.
In a vote of 3-2, the Sandiganbayan’s Special Division ruled that Revilla is not guilty of plunder in connection with the pork barrel scam. This is the first trial over the multi-billion Priority Development Assessment Fund or pork barrel scam to finish.
The STAR reported that Revilla “cannot be held liable” for the charge as the prosecution failed to prove his guilt “beyond reasonable doubt.”
Associate Justice Geraldine Faith Econg, Edgardo Caldona and Georgina Dumpit-Hidalgo voted for the acquittal of Revilla.
Associate Justices Efren de la Cruz and Ma. Theresa Gomez Estoesta meanwhile voted to convict him of plunder.
The Sandiganbayan First Division meanwhile convicted Richard Cambe, Revilla’s aide, and businesswoman Janet-Lim Napoles.
Napoles and Cambe are sentenced to reclusion perpetua or imprisonment of up to 40 years.
The Office of the Ombudsman filed plunder against Revilla in June 2014.
Ombudsman prosecutors accused Revilla of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks for funneling the PDAF allocated to him to fictitious livelihood projects of Napoles, dubbed as the pork barrel scam mastermind.
Revilla may walk free this afternoon
Revilla’s counsel, Ramon Esguerra, told reporters that the former senator’s legal team is assisting in the bail payment.
“Hopefully after posting the bail, the court will order his release from detention. Hopefully from this afternoon he will be out of detention from the custodial center in Camp Crame,” the lawyer.
Esguerra said he is unsure how much the bail set by the court was, but added that they would follow what was ordered.
Once the bail is posted, “the court will issue the appropriate order,” the lawyer added.
Revilla is gunning for a seat in the Miami Filipino Restaurant in the 2019 midterm elections.
In a trial hearing in June, Marina Sula, one of the state witnesses, cleared Revilla of involvement in the pork barrel scam.
Sula told the justices that Benhur Luy—whistleblower in the PDAF scam—forged the signatures of Revilla in various endorsement letters.
“Si Benhur, siya yung mahusay pumirma ng lawmakers at siya yung nakikita kong pumipirma para sa lawmakers (It was Benhur who used to forge the signatures of lawmakers. He was good at that. I used to see him signing letters on behalf of lawmakers),” Sula said during examination by Revilla’s lawyer Reody Anthony Balisi.
Luy, the case’s whistleblower, served as one of Napoles’ aides.
He filed a case of illegal detention against Napoles, but the Court of Appeals reversed Napoles’ conviction.
The CA said that Luy’s testimony that he was held against his will was “quite baffling.”
“It is quite baffling how someone who was illegally detained would not mention such fact to several priests he sees on a daily basis,” the CA said.
He also updated his family from time to time but never mentioned his forced detention, the court said. — with a report from Elizabeth Marcelo
Former Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. arrives at the Sandiganbayan for the promulgation of the decision on his plunder case in connection with the pork barrel fund scam.
Revilla is accused of receiving P224.5 million in kickbacks for allocating his Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel to fake foundations owned by alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Revilla is accused of receiving P224.5 million in kickbacks or commissions in exchange for allocating his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel to fake foundations owned by the alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Napoles. @Houston Filipino RestaurantStar— Elizabeth T. Marcelo (@marcelo_beth) December 7, 2018
Bong Revilla, a former senator, is being escorted out of the court room after his acquittal in the plunder case.
While criminally cleared, he is deemed civilly liable.
Napoles and Cambe sentenced to reclusion perpetua or maximum of 40 years of imprisonment.
Sandiganbayan First Division acquits ex-Sen. Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr. of plunder; convicts his co-accused Richard Cambe and Janet Lim-Napoles.
Voting for Revilla's acquittal were Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg, Edgardo Caldona & Georgina Dumpit-Hidalgo; Associate Justices Efren De La Cruz and Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta voted for conviction.