MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Voting 13-1-1, the Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday, December 6, turned down the petition of detained former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr to dismiss his plunder case.*
This was in connection with the P224-million plunder charge against him over the multimillion-peso pork barrel scam. Revilla cited lack of probable cause in his petition.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr was the lone dissenter in the High Court’s decision. Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza did not participate in the voting. The majority of the justices went with the decision to deny Revilla’s petition.
Also dismissed were the petitions filed by Revilla’s chief of staff Richard Cambe, alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles, Napoles’ employees Ronald John Lim and John Raymund De Asis, and Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
The petitioners were questioning the joint resolutions of the Ombudsman finding probable cause to indict them for plunder, among other charges.
But the SC said that it found no grave abuse of discretion in the indictments and dismissed the petitions for lack of merit.
“The Ombudsman (and the Sandiganbayan as to petitioners Relampagos, et al) did not err in finding probable cause against all the petitioners. Their findings are fully supported by the records of this case and no semblance of misapprehension taints the same,” the SC said.
The High Court directed the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan to continue with the plunder trial proceedings.
Revilla is one of 3 former senators facing plunder complaints for allegedly diverting their discretionary funds into fake non-governmental organizations in exchange for kickbacks. (READ: Pork tales: A story on corruption)
‘Strong, compelling evidence’
Earlier in December 2014, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division said it found evidence presented against the senator to be “strong.” It also said that it found the evidence presented by the prosecution at the time to be “compelling.”
Among the compelling evidence cited by the Sandiganbayan then were:
- Letters signed by Revilla endorsing the release of his PDAF, and another letter confirming the previous endorsement letter
- A report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council showing Revilla’s and his family’s bank accounts ballooned 30 days after each recorded release of kickbacks in Luy’s ledger
In its resolution, the anti-graft court said: “In fine, the prosecution has established that there exists strong evidence that accused Revilla, [Richard] Cambe, [Janet] Napoles, in conspiracy with one another, committed the capital offense of plunder defined and penalized under RA 7080, and thus are not entitled to the constitutional right to bail.”
Revilla’s co-accused, former Senator Jinggoy Estrada, is currently detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City.
Meanwhile, former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was freed on bail in August 2015 for humanitarian reasons.
Revilla being freed on bail was one of the campaign promises made by President Rodrigo Duterte in January early this year.
Speaking to voters in Revilla’s home city, Duterte said then: “Ako, you can be very sure, lalabas ‘yan, lalabas siya diyan. I cannot guarantee na ‘yung kaso mae-erase, pero I will see to it that he will be given the right to bail.”
(Under me, you can be very sure he will get out. I cannot guarantee that his case will be erased, but I will see to it that he will be given the right to bail.)
Revilla’s bail petition has earlier been denied by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in December 2014 due to “strong evidence” presented by the prosecution against the former senator. – Rappler.com
*Editor’s Note: The Supreme Court voted to deny Revilla’s petition to dismiss his case for lack of probable cause. An earlier version of this story said it denied his petition for bail.