MANILA, Philippines – Three days before he is scheduled to be tried for plunder, former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr asked the anti-graft court on Monday, February 6, to dismiss the plunder charges against him.
In his 31-page motion, a copy of which was released to media on Wednesday, February 8, the former senator argued that the facts in the charge sheet filed against him in connection to the pork barrel controversy do not constitute plunder, and should therefore be dismissed.
Citing the bill of rights, Revilla said his rights to due process was violated because the information filed “does not adequately inform the accused of the nature and cause of the accusation against him.”
Revilla is accused of pocketing P224 million from his discretionary development assistance fund that were released to fake foundations and non-governmental organizations through agent Janet Lim Napoles.
“Every crime is made up of certain acts and intent, these must be set forth in the complaint with reasonable particularity of time, place, names and circumstances,” stated Revilla’s motion, which was filed through his team of counsels that include former Solicitor General Estelito Mendoza.
His plunder trial is set to begin Thursday, February 9, after it was postponed in January due to amendments in the pre-trial brief.
The Enrile defense
These arguments are reminiscent of former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile’s motions before the Sandiganbayan to have his own plunder charges dismissed. Mendoza is also Enrile’s lawyer in the pork barrel scam case. (READ: How the bright Enrile is fighting his plunder charges in court)
Mendoza first appeared in court with Revilla on January 12 during the initial schedule of the former senator’s plunder trial. It was postponed to February 9 because the prosecution needed to make corrections in the pre-trial brief.
Bacoor Mayor Lani Mercado Revilla, who was then with her husband, said they hired Mendoza precisely because of the lawyer’s winning record.
“Marami nang nag-advise na kunin namin siya. At first he was giving advice, pero nung kinahinatnan, kinuha naming counsel. Kilala naman natin ang kalibre niya. I’m sure he could help us,” Mercado said. (We have been advised by many people to hire him. At first he was merely giving advice, but eventually we hired him as counsel. We know of his caliber, I’m sure he could help us.)
The information against Revilla filed by prosecutors allege that Revilla and his former chief of staff lawyer Richard Cambe earned a total of P224,512,500 in kickbacks from the pork barrel scam.
Prosecutors alleged that Revilla and Cambe were able to amass wealth by “repeatedly receiving from” Napoles and her representatives through an intricate scheme of funneling funds from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to Napoles-owned NGOs.
According to Revilla’s motion, “it is indubitably clear that the information is a bundle of ‘conclusions of law’ which, when disregarded or deleted, will hardly leave allegations of facts or acts, much less constituting the offense of plunder.”
The motion also cites Enrile’s victory before the Supreme Court to be provided with a bill of particulars in his plunder charges.
Revilla’s team said the information filed against him do not contain the details that constitute the offense of plunder, as required by the Supreme Court when it favored Enrile.
They made a similar argument as in the Enrile case, hitting the prosecution. “The prosecution made little or no effort to particularize the transactions that would constitute the required series or combination of overt acts.”
The Cambe connection
Revilla’s lawyers also questioned the wording of the information filed by the prosecutors.
The information alleges that Revilla received his commissions from Napoles “in consideration of his endorsement ‘directly or through’ Cambe, to the appropriate government agencies, of Napoles’ non-government organizations which became the recipients and/or target implementors of Revilla’s PDAF projects.”
Revilla’s lawyers argued that according to the information itself filed by the prosecutors, Revilla’s “overt criminal act” is not that he amassed ill-gotten wealth, but that he endorsed agencies and NGOs through Cambe.
“That endorsement, however, is not among the overt or criminal acts described in Section 1(d) of RA No. 8080 which, if in a ‘combination of series,’ is the ‘heart of the plunder law,'” Revilla’s motion said.
The court is set to hear the motion on Thursday, February 9, on the same day as the scheduled trial.
The hearing is scheduled to start at 8:30 am. In the afternoon, at 4 pm, Revilla will be going to the St Luke’s Medical Center in Taguig and will be staying there until 8 pm, after the court partially granted his furlough request. – Rappler.com