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SC affirms graft court ruling on PDAF raps vs. Revilla

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(Photo from Instagram | @jolo_revilla)

 

MANILA – It seems the chance of actor and former Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla to be out on bail or be freed soon is getting blurred again.

 

This after the Supreme Court (SC)  dismissed his petition and that of his chief of staff Richard Cambe, and Janet Lim Napoles seeking to reverse the Sandiganbayan resolutions regarding the P224.5-million plunder cases filed against them over the pork barrel scam.

 

The High Court reported that it dismissed all the petitions for lack of merit and affirmed the anti-graft court's resolutions.

 

The SC said there was no grave abuse of discretion on the part of the Sandiganbayan in issuing a writ of preliminary attachment over P224,512,500 in monies and properties owned by Revilla and his wife since the requisites for the issuance have been complied with.

 

“In so denying the petitions, the Court expressly stated that this Decision does not touch upon the guilt or innocence of the accused,” the High Court said.

 

The amount is the same amount subject of the plunder case.

 

The High Court also upheld the Sandiganbayan’s denial of Cambe and Napoles’ respective bail pleas.

 

Revilla filed a similar petition challenging his bail plea denial but later withdrew the pleading.

 

“The Sandiganbayan held that the prosecution duly established with strong evidence that Revilla, Cambe, and Napoles in conspiracy with one another, committed the offense of plunder and, thus, are not entitled to the constitutional right to bail,” the SC said.

 

As for Napoles, the SC said it considered a report by the Anti-Money Laundering Council stating that she controlled the non-governmental organizations involved in the scam.

 

“The Court found that the Sandiganbayan considered the entire record of evidence in finding strong evidence of guilt, indicative of lack of grave abuse of discretion,” the SC said.

 

It also said it was “unwilling to overturn the factual findings of the Sandiganbayan, absent any showing of grave abuse of discretion which, in this case, the Court did not find.”

 

“The Court also upheld the trial court’s assessment of the credibility of witnesses as it is the trial court that had the opportunity to listen to and observe the witnesses and, as its findings and assessments are entitled to great weight, sometimes even finality.”

 

The SC also denied the Ombudsman’s plea for the transfer of Revilla and Cambe’s physical custody to a facility operated by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), a motion that was earlier denied by the Sandiganbayan.

 

The Sandiganbayan junked the transfer plea as it found no justifiable ground for the transfer.

 

"On this point, the Court noted that the Sandiganbayan did not gravely abuse its discretion as the PNP Custodial Center is considered a jail and there is nothing in the law or rules that provide that the accused must be confined in a BJMP facility," the court said.

 

Revilla is detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center for his alleged involvement in the multi-billion-peso anomaly involving legislators’ Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF), or pork barrel funds, which were supposedly misappropriated under the direction of businesswoman Napoles.

 

Of the three former lawmakers charged in the pork barrel fund scam, Revilla is the only one left in detention at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

 

Revilla, together with former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile and former senator Jinggoy Estrada, were charged with plunder, a non-bailable offense, along with alleged brains of the pork barrel scam Napoles. All three were detained in 2014.

 

However, both Enrile and Estrada were able to post bail for their temporary liberty. In 2015, the High Court allowed Enrile to post bail for humanitarian reasons due to his "advanced age and poor health," while Estrada was allowed by the Sandiganbayan special fifth division to post bail in September 2017.

 

 Talks of possible release on bail or dismissal of his case loomed recently when two whistleblowers in the alleged Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam cleare Revilla.

 

First, whistleblower Marina Sula cleared Revilla of wrongdoing during his trial at the First Division of the Sandiganbayan.

 

Next, another government witness, Arlene Baltazar, testified Revilla had no involvement in the plunder case.

 

Baltazar, accountant and bookkeeper of JLN Corporation, took the witness stand in the afternoon of June 28 and testified, like Sula, that documents being attributed to Revilla were in fact prepared in their office and signed by Benhur Luy.

 

Confronted with letters of endorsement, Baltazar told the Court that while she could no longer recall specific dates, it could all have been forged by Luy. “…It was Benhur Luy who signed these (documents). Pirma po ni Benhur lahat ng mga ito,” she said.

 

Asked how she knew, she responded “(This is our) standard practice.” Pressed further to clarify her statements, she answered “Nakita ko siyang pumipirma. No one else signs sa amin. Si Benhur lang ang pumipirma.”

 

Upon cross examination by the prosecution, the whistleblower revealed she was certain it was Benhur Luy who faked the documents without Revilla’s knowledge because they shared working space. “Magkalapit lang po kami. Ganito lang po kami kalayo (demonstrating about being two feet apart).” When asked if they had a divider or separate cubicles, Baltazar answered in the negative. “Wala po. In fact, isa lang table namin. Yung mga papeles niya nakapatong pa sa pwesto ko.”

 

Before ending her testimony, Justice Geraldine Faith Econg asked the witness: “Can you say with certainty whether Revilla received or did not receive kickbacks?” to which she replied “I can say with certainty thatRamon Bong Revilla, Jr. did not receive any money or kickbacks from the NGOs.”

 

Sula earlier revealed that it was Benhur Luy who prepared and faked all PDAF documents being used against Revilla. She also cleared Revilla of any participation in the scam and asserted Revilla never received any kickback. Aside from exposing being told by the prosecution to just corroborate all statements by Luy, she also revealed being ordered by Luy to “Idiin mo yang si Revilla” in a phone call one week before she took the stand.

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