WHY BONG MUST PAY DE­SPITE AC­QUIT­TAL

Philippine Daily Inquirer - - FRONT PAGE - STORY BY JEROME ANING

San Beda law dean Fr. Ran­hilio Aquino ex­plains that guilt de­mands proof be­yond rea­son­able doubt, but civil li­a­bil­ity only re­quires a pre­pon­der­ance of ev­i­dence. IBP pres­i­dent Ab­diel Fa­jardo says P124.5 mil­lion was il­le­gally taken from the gov­ern­ment and all the ac­cused must re­turn the money.

Should for­mer Sen. Bong Revilla be made to pay back part of the P124.5 mil­lion in kick­backs from his pork bar­rel fund de­spite his ac­quit­tal in the plun­der case against him?

Fr. Ran­hilio Aquino, dean of San Beda Univer­sity Grad­u­ate School of Law, be­lieves he should.

In a Face­book post hours af­ter Revilla’s ac­quit­tal on Fri­day, Aquino said a court may ac­quit a de­fen­dant and still find him li­able to re­turn, resti­tute or pay a cer­tain amount of money.

“If you bring home your of­fice­mate’s wal­let, think­ing in all good faith that it is yours, and your of­fice­mate later on charges you with theft, you will, in all prob­a­bil­ity be ac­quit­ted ab­sent any proof that you in­tended to de­fraud your col­league, but you will still be or­dered to re­turn the wal­let and its con­tents for the sim­ple rea­son that it is not yours,” he ex­plained.

For a crim­i­nal con­vic­tion such as in the plun­der case against Revilla, proof be­yond rea­son­able doubt is re­quired, but civil li­a­bil­ity needs only the pre­pon­der­ance of ev­i­dence, Aquino said.

Pre­pon­der­ance means that “the proof of guilt is greater than the proof of nonguilt,” Aquino said.

Proof be­yond rea­son­able doubt means that the court, by the strength of the ev­i­dence pre­sented, has no more rea­son­able ques­tions left to ask about the cul­pa­bil­ity of the ac­cused, he added.

IBP pres­i­dent agrees

Ab­diel Fa­jardo, pres­i­dent of the In­te­grated Bar of the Philip­pines (IBP), agreed with Aquino.

“The civil li­a­bil­ity was only a con­se­quence of the find­ing that a spe­cific amount was il­le­gally col­lected from gov­ern­ment. At least that much was lost from gov­ern­ment cof­fers as es­tab­lished in ev­i­dence,” he said in a text mes­sage to the Inquirer.

“All ac­cused were held sol­i­dar­ily li­able for that civil li­a­bil­ity, [that is], to com­pen­sate gov­ern­ment for the loss. That in­cludes the se­na­tor,” he added.

Revilla’s lawyer, Ra­mon Es­guerra, a for­mer Depart­ment of Jus­tice un­der­sec­re­tary, dis­agreed with the court’s order.

He said since Revilla had no crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity, he also did not have any civil li­a­bil­ity.

The Sandi­gan­bayan’s five­mem­ber Spe­cial First Divi­sion voted 3-2 to ac­quit Revilla but con­victed his coac­cused, al­leged pork bar­rel scam mas­ter­mind Janet Lim-Napoles and his for­mer aide, lawyer Richard Cambe.

The court, cit­ing Ar­ti­cle 100 of the Re­vised Pe­nal Code, said the “ac­cused are held sol­i­dar­ily and jointly li­able to re­turn to the Na­tional Trea­sury” P124.5 mil­lion.

It was the amount that went to Cambe that the lawyer was sup­posed to have given to Revil- la. But the court said the pros­e­cu­tion was un­able to prove that Revilla re­ceived the money, help­ing raise “rea­son­able doubt” about his guilt.

‘Un­pop­u­lar’ de­ci­sion

“Yes, I know it’s un­pop­u­lar,” said Sandi­gan­bayan As­so­ciate Jus­tice Geral­dine Faith Econg of the ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion that she penned.

“I would have loved to be a hero­ine, that I con­victed him,” she told re­porters af­ter Fri­day’s pro­mul­ga­tion. “But at the end of the day, I’m bound to rule based on ev­i­dence pre­sented by both the pros­e­cu­tion and the de­fense.”

Many Filipinos took to so­cial me­dia to crit­i­cize Revilla’s ac­quit­tal.

Econg de­fended the ma­jor­ity de­ci­sion, in­di­cat­ing that the pros­e­cu­tion did not present a strong enough case for a guilty judg­ment on the for­mer se­na­tor.

Although Fa­jardo said all three ac­cused should re­turn the P124.5 mil­lion in kick­backs, he said the ma­jor­ity rul­ing that only Cambe and Napoles were guilty was still “a bit con­fus­ing.”

“If you read the dis­sent­ing opin­ions, what they’re say­ing is that it’s not rea­son­able to ex­pect that in cases like these, there would be a smok­ing gun,” he said in a ra­dio in­ter­view on Satur­day.

Dis­senters’ view

One of the dis­senters, As­so­ciate Jus­tice Efren de la Cruz, said con­spir­a­cies such as plun­der are nor­mally hid­den from the pub­lic eye and de­mand­ing di­rect ev­i­dence would make it “hard, if not im­pos­si­ble, to prove.”

By his reck­on­ing, Revilla should re­turn P185.44 mil­lion, Napoles P44 mil­lion and Cambe P13.94 mil­lion.

An­other dis­senter, As­so­ciate Jus­tice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Es­toesta, said the ma­jor­ity “oddly” spec­u­lated on whether the money de­posited in the ac­counts of Revilla as found by the Anti-Money Laun­der­ing Coun­cil were the very same funds that came from Napoles, but it did not “ex­tri­cate” the for­mer se­na­tor from the civil li­a­bil­i­ties.

“It only goes to say, there­fore, that since all three ac­cused were made to an­swer for the same civil li­a­bil­ity, the source of the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of wealth as found in the crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity should only be the same,” she said.

If you bring home your of­fice­mate’s wal­let, think­ing in all good faith that it is yours, and your of­fice­mate later on charges you with theft, you will, in all prob­a­bil­ity be ac­quit­ted ab­sent any proof that you in­tended to de­fraud your col­league, but you will still be or­dered to re­turn the wal­let and its con­tents for the sim­ple rea­son that it is not yours Fr. Ran­hilio Aquino San Beda Univer­sity Grad­u­ate School of Law dean

Bong Revilla Jr.

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