Ex-sen­a­tor cleared of plun­der in PDAF scam; rul­ing slammed

Sun.Star Cebu - - FRONT PAGE - SUNSTAR PHILIP­PINES, AZLG OF SUPERBALITA CEBU/ JKV

Vot­ing 3-2, the Sandi­gan­bayan ac­quit­ted for­mer sen­a­tor Ra­mon “Bong” Revilla Jr. of plun­der charges in re­la­tion to his sup­posed in­volve­ment in the multi-bil­lion Pri­or­ity De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund (PDAF) scam.

The three Sandi­gan­bayan jus­tices who voted yes to the ac­quit­tal of Revilla dur­ing the pro­mul­ga­tion of his case Thurs­day, Dec. 7, are As­so­ciate Jus­tices Geral­dine Econg, Edgardo Cal­dona, and Ge­orgina Hi­dalgo.

The two who dis­agreed are As­so­ciate Jus­tices Efren dela Cruz and Maria Teresa Gomez-Es­toesa.

The Sandi­gan­bayan, mean­while, found Revilla’s co-ac­cused Richard Cambe, his for­mer chief of staff, and pork bar­rel scam mas­ter­mind Janet Lim-Napoles guilty of the same charges.

The two were sen­tenced to reclu­sion per­petua, or a max­i­mum of 40 years im­pris­on­ment, and were barred from hold­ing pub­lic of­fice.

Revilla was ac­cused of pock­et­ing P224 mil­lion in kick­backs from bo­gus projects with the aid of Napoles.

He has been de­tained at the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice Cus­to­dial Cen­ter in Camp Crame since June 2014.

Revilla is still fac­ing graft charges, also in re­la­tion to the pork bar­rel scam.

For­mer Leyte con­gress­man Mar­tin Ro­mualdez, pres­i­dent of the Lakas-Chris­tian Mus­lim Democrats (CMD), de­scribed the ver­dict as “timely jus­tice” for Revilla, whom he said was a vic­tim of po­lit­i­cal per­se­cu­tion by the Aquino ad­min­is­tra­tion.

“His ac­quit­tal only val­i­dates and proves that the plun­der case against him was po­lit­i­cally mo­ti­vated. Sadly, the plun­der case took away more than four years of his life,” said Ro­mualdez.

He said Revilla, who serves as chair­man of the Lakas-CMD, is “most qual­i­fied” to be sen­a­tor. Revilla, through wife Lani Mer­cado-Revilla, filed in Oc­to­ber his cer­tifi­cate of can­di­dacy for sen­a­tor for the May 2019 elec­tions.

“His pas­sion and ded­i­ca­tion to serve the peo­ple will bring pos­i­tive change and help im­prove the coun­try’s good gover­nance, poli­cies, and law­mak­ing process,” Ro­mualdez said.

ACT Teach­ers Reps. An­to­nio Tinio and Rep. France Cas­tro, for their part, slammed the de­ci­sion of the anti-graft court, say­ing this re­flects the “hypocrisy” of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cam­paign against cor­rup­tion.

“The ac­quit­tal of for­mer sen­a­tor Bong Revilla over plun­der charges shows the in­sin­cer­ity of the Duterte ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cam­paign against cor­rup­tion, where big fish are al­lowed to wrig­gle free,” Tinio said.

Tinio also said it is “very alarm­ing” that only Revilla was ac­quit­ted while his co-ac­cused Napoles and Cambe were con­victed.

“Big politi­cians have ei­ther been found not guilty or are out on bail. This greatly re­flects the anti-cor­rup­tion cam­paign of Pres­i­dent Duterte. If you steal mil­lions, you can still run free,” Tinio said.

Cas­tro, for her part, noted that the Pres­i­dent stated re­peat­edly that he will not al­low cor­rup­tion. Cas­tro said the Pres­i­dent should also make sure that those charged with cor­rup­tion will pay for the crimes they have com­mit­ted.

“The pork bar­rel sys­tem con­tin­ues to thrive un­der his ad­min­is­tra­tion. Politi­cians charged over the PDAF scam are ac­quit­ted. Imelda Mar­cos con­victed of graft re­mains free and ap­pointees with cor­rup­tion charges are reap­pointed to other posts,” added Cas­tro.

In Cebu, for­mer Cebu City Re­gional Trial Court ex­ec­u­tive judge and anti-graft cru­sader Mein­rado Pare­des also slammed the Sandi­gan­bayan de­ci­sion.

He said doc­u­ments from the Anti-Money Laun­der­ing Coun­cil (Am­lac) should have been enough to con­vict all three ac­cused of the plun­der charges.

Pare­des said Am­lac records and the pri­vate ledger of whistle­blower Ben­hur Luy showed that Revilla re­ceived a com­mis­sion from the pork bar­rel scam and that the money was de­posited in the ac­counts of Revilla and his fam­ily. The for­mer sen­a­tor later with­drew it af­ter he was em­broiled in the pork bar­rel scam, the re­tired judge said.

There was over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence to con­vict Revilla, he said.

Cambe, who was con­victed, only re­ceived the money on Revilla’s be­half, he added.

“This is a case of se­lec­tive jus­tice. Why was Cambe con­victed, when he was just an aide or agent of Revilla? And Revilla, de­spite the over­whelm­ing ev­i­dence against him, was ac­quit­ted. A gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial and a pri­vate per­son even tes­ti­fied against him,” Pare­des said in Ce­buano.

Pare­des, though, did not ques­tion the con­vic­tion of Napoles, say­ing the ev­i­dence against the pork bar­rel queen was tight.

Vice Gov. Agnes Mag­pale, for her part, had no prob­lem with the Sandi­gan­bayan de­ci­sion, say­ing the anti-graft court wouldn’t have come up with it without ba­sis. /

For­mer sen­a­tor RA­MON “BONG” REVILLA JR.

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