BONG REVILLA AC­QUIT­TED

Tempo - - Front Page - By CZARINA NI­COLE O. ONG

The Sandi­gan­bayan Spe­cial First Divi­sion yesterday ac­quit­ted for­mer Sen. Ra­mon “Bong” B. Revilla Jr. of plun­der in con­nec­tion with his al­leged in­volve­ment in the multi-bil­lion peso Pri­or­ity De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund or “pork bar­rel” fund scam.

The Sandi­gan­bayan Spe­cial First Divi­sion yesterday ac­quit­ted for­mer Sen. Ra­mon “Bong” B. Revilla Jr. of plun­der in con­nec­tion with his al­leged in­volve­ment in the multi-bil­lion peso Pri­or­ity De­vel­op­ment As­sis­tance Fund or “pork bar­rel” fund scam.

On the other hand, the anti-graft court found busi­ness­woman Janet L. Napoles and Revilla’s for­mer chief of staff, Richard Cambe, guilty of plun­der.

Cambe and Napoles were sen­tenced to reclu­sion per­petua with per­pet­ual ab­so­lute dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion from hold­ing any pub­lic of­fice.

“For fail­ure of the pros­e­cu­tion to es­tab­lish be­yond rea­son­able doubt that ac­cused Revilla re­ceived, di­rectly or in­di­rectly, the re­bates, com­mis­sion, and kick­backs from his PDAF, the Court can­not hold him li­able for the crime of plun­der,” the dis­pos­i­tive por­tion of the de­ci­sion said.

Cambe and Napoles were also “held sol­i­dar­ily and jointly li­able” to re­turn

₱124,500,000 to the na­tional trea­sury pur­suant to Ar­ti­cle 100 of the Re­vised Pe­nal Code.

The 186-page de­ci­sion did not state who among them should pay, but ac­cord­ing to the law, only those who are crim­i­nally li­able in the case should be held civilly li­able. Since Revilla is not crim­i­nally li­able, his lawyers have claimed that he is not re­quired to pay.

Af­ter be­ing cleared of plun­der, Revilla im­me­di­ately posted a ₱480,000 bail for the 16 counts of graft be­fore the Clerk of Court of the Sandi­gan­bayan First Divi­sion.

The First Divi­sion is com­prised of chair­per­son 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.

Econg and Cal­dona voted for Revilla’s ac­quit­tal. Since Dela Cruz dis­sented, a spe­cial divi­sion was cre­ated with two spe­cial mem­bers from other di­vi­sions – As­so­ciate Jus­tices Maria Theresa Dolores Gomez-Es­toesta and Ge­orgina Dumpit-Hi­dalgo.

Hi­dalgo voted for ac­quit­tal while Es­toesta dis­sented. As a re­sult, the ma­jor­ity vote, which is to ac­quit, won.

Econg said that she hopes the pub­lic would un­der­stand how they came to their con­clu­sion. She knows Revilla’s ac­quit­tal is an “un­pop­u­lar de­ci­sion,” they have to go by the ev­i­dence.

“I would have loved to be a hero­ine, that I con­victed him. But at the end of the day, we are bound by ev­i­dence of the pros­e­cu­tion and de­fense,” she said.

In the de­ci­sion, the jus­tices stated that they are “unan­i­mous” in the con­clu­sion that Cambe and Napoles are “guilty as charged.”

“How­ever, the ma­jor­ity of us har­bor se­ri­ous doubts as to the cul­pa­bil­ity of Revilla be­yond rea­son­able doubt,” they said.

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