Sandi­gan ac­quits Revilla of plun­der

The Freeman - - FRONT PAGE - — Philstar.com

MANILA — The Sandi­gan­bayan ac­quit­ted yes­ter­day for­mer Sen. Ra­mon “Bong” Revilla Jr. from plun­der charges for the mis­use of P224.5 mil­lion worth of pub­lic funds.

In a vote of 3-2, the Sandi­gan­bayan 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 anti-graft court ruled that Revilla “can­not be held li­able” for the charge as the prose­cu­tion failed to prove his guilt “be­yond rea­son­able doubt.”

As­so­ciate Jus­tices Geral­dine Faith Econg, Edgardo Cal­dona and Ge­orgina Dumpit-Hi­dalgo voted for the ac­quit­tal of Revilla while As­so­ciate Jus­tices Efren de la Cruz and Ma. Theresa Gomez Es­toesta voted to con­vict him of plun­der.

Revilla’s chief of staff Richard Cambe and busi­ness­woman Janet Lim Napoles, how­ever, were con­victed by the Sandi­gan­bayan First Di­vi­sion. Cambe and Napoles were sen­tenced to suf­fer a penalty of reclu­sion per­petua or 40 years im­pris­on­ment.

Cambe will head to the New Bili­bid Pri­son. He was pre­vi­ously de­tained at the Philip­pine Na­tional Po­lice Cus­to­dial Cen­ter. Napoles, mean­while, will re­main in the Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion for Women in Man­daluy­ong.

The Of­fice of the Om­buds­man charged Revilla, Cambe, and Napoles in June 2014. Anti-graft pros­e­cu­tors ac­cused them of pock­et­ing P224.5 mil­lion in kick­backs for fun­nel­ing the PDAF al­lo­cated to Revilla to fic­ti­tious liveli­hood projects of Napoles, dubbed as the pork bar­rel scam mas­ter­mind.

How­ever, state wit­ness Ma­rina Sula 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.

PHILSTAR NEWS SER­VICE

For­mer Sen. Ra­mon Bong Revilla Jr. waves at his sup­port­ers as he leaves the Sandi­gan­bayan af­ter he was ac­quit­ted of plun­der yes­ter­day.

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