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