Sandi­gan­bayan jus­tices reach an im­passe on Bong Revilla plun­der case

Watchmen Daily Journal - - NATION - (Lian Buan, Rap­pler.com)

MANILA – The anti­graft court Sandi­gan­bayan First Di­vi­sion has cre­ated a spe­cial di­vi­sion as the reg­u­lar mem­ber-jus­tices reached an im­passe on whether or not to con­vict for­mer sen­a­tor Ra­mon "Bong" Revilla Jr. of plun­der in the pork bar­rel scam scan­dal.

Rap­pler has learned from sources that the First Di­vi­sion has cre­ated a spe­cial di­vi­sion of five.

In the Sandi­gan­bayan where di­vi­sions are made up of three reg­u­lar mem­bers, the vote has to be unan­i­mous in or­der to pro­mul­gate a de­ci­sion. In the event of a dis­sent, the di­vi­sion will in­vite two spe­cial mem­bers who will be picked by draw­ing lots. In that case, ma­jor­ity vote wins.

Ac­cord­ing to one source privy to the pro­ceed­ings, the spe­cial mem­bers are As­so­ciate Jus­tices Ma. Theresa Dolores GomezEs­toesta and Ge­orgina Hi­dalgo. They will join the reg­u­lar mem­bers who are As­so­ciate Jus­tices Efren dela Cruz, Geral­dine Faith Econg, and Edgardo Cal­dona.

The same source said that as of last week, the two spe­cial mem­bers had not yet cast their votes.

The pro­mul­ga­tion of de­ci­sion is sched­uled on Fri­day, De­cem­ber 7.

The two spe­cial mem­bers had to study four years' worth of records, the last two years of which have been spent on the for­mal trial. Dela Cruz, Econg, and Cal­dona were there for the en­tire trial pe­riod.

Case his­tory

The First Di­vi­sion de­nied Revilla's ap­peal for an out­right dis­missal twice, rul­ing that the prose­cu­tion had pre­sented suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to pro­ceed. Forced to present their own ev­i­dence, the de­fense team put Revilla on the stand, along with two for­mer em­ploy­ees of Janet Napoles.

One of the whistle­blow­ers, Ma­rina Sula, said for the de­fense that she was pres­sured by Om­buds­man prose­cu­tors to cor­rob­o­rate the state­ments of Ben­hur Luy. Sula said Luy forged Revilla's sig­na­tures on pork bar­rel en­dorse­ments.

On the part of the prose­cu­tion, they pre­sented lo­cal ex­ec­u­tives who tes­ti­fied that they never got the projects which were sup­posed to have been funded by Revilla's pork bar­rel.

Revilla is ac­cused of earn­ing P224.5 mil­lion in kick­backs by fun­nelling his pork bar­rel through bo­gus non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions (NGOs) owned by Napoles. Napoles is a co-ac­cused in the Revilla case, and the for­mer sen­a­tor's staff, lawyer Richard Cambe.

Luy has never seen nor talked to Revilla per­son­ally, but he claims he has de­liv­ered money to Cambe re­peat­edly.

The prose­cu­tion re­lies on the pa­per trail, say­ing that re­quest let­ters to the bud­get depart­ment are con­firmed to have been signed by Revilla. The prose­cu­tors pointed out re­quest let­ters were gen­eral and did not spec­ify projects and costs.

Be­cause they are gen­eral, prose­cu­tors said it is im­pos­si­ble for Revilla not to have fol­lowed up on the im­ple­men­ta­tion of mil­lions' worth of projects, which would then be­lie his claim that he, too, was vic­tim­ized by the Napoles NGOs.

Also an ace for the prose­cu­tion is an An­tiMoney Laun­der­ing Coun­cil (AMLC) re­port which shows match­ing amounts and dates be­tween Luy's kick­back records and Revilla's bank ac­counts.

For­mer om­buds­man Con­chita Car­pio Morales said she is con­fi­dent that the work she and the prose­cu­tors had done is enough to se­cure a con­vic­tion.

Revilla has filed his can­di­dacy for the 2019 sen­a­to­rial elec­tions. He has been de­tained for four years.

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