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Pork scam: Sandigan decision on Revilla, Napoles plunder case out today

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Former Senator Bong Revilla. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA

The Sandiganbayan is scheduled to hand down today its judgment in the P224.5-million plunder case of former Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. in connection with the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

It will be the first of five plunder cases to be concluded since the pork barrel controversy erupted five years ago.

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Revilla has been detained since June 2014. Two other former senators, Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, who were also accused of plunder stemming from the pork barrel racket, were allowed to post bail in August 2015 and September 2017, respectively.

Coaccused Cambe, Napoles

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Also set for promulgation today were the cases against two of Revilla’s coaccused—his former chief of staff Richard Cambe and businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Napoles allegedly controlled a network of foundations into which funds from legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations were funneled.

Revilla was accused of pocketing P224.5 million in kickbacks in exchange for endorsing the Napoles-linked foundations as conduits for his P517-million PDAF for livelihood projects.

Should the senator and his coaccused be found guilty, they could face the penalty of reclusion perpetua, or imprisonment of up to 40 years, as well as perpetual disqualification from public office.

It is unlikely for a guilty ruling to attain finality in time to stop Revilla’s senatorial candidacy, with the May 13, 2019, midterm elections barely five months away.

Family’s bank deposits

The presentation of evidence took place during the trial that lasted from June 2017 to August this year, although the most serious pieces of evidence were introduced in 2014 to establish that the case was strong enough to deny the three defendants of their right to post bail.

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These included the testimonies and documents of Napoles’ employees who later became whistleblowers, a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council on the Revilla family’s bank deposits, and proof that the former senator’s livelihood projects were never implemented.

Defense lawyers sought to convince the court that his actions did not constitute the elements of plunder, and obtained testimony from whistleblower Marina Sula that she was coached to back her coworker, star witness Benhur Luy.

In a statement posted on his Facebook account—which said it was handled by administrators—Revilla asked his supporters to pray for “truth and justice to prevail.”

“After four and a half years of incarceration and being subjected to a very slow process, the day that I have been waiting for will finally come—the end of my prosecution,” he said.

Only members of Revilla’s immediate family will be allowed to attend the promulgation, unlike past trial hearings when his friends in the entertainment industry like Lolit Solis and Phillip Salvador came.

Anxious, hopeful

His wife, Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado, said in a text message: “The family is both anxious and hopeful.

“We are continuously praying for justice and truth to prevail. We ask everyone to join us in our prayers for divine justice. May the Lord touch the magistrates,” she said.

Revilla’s lawyer Ramon Esguerra said the “presumption of innocence of former Senator Revilla remains until a final judgment is rendered.”

Esguerra said his client’s constitutional right would remain even with an adverse outcome today. “We nonetheless maintain the innocence of former Senator Revilla. We are praying on bended knees for a judgment in his favor.”

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