SC rules with finality: Revilla plunder and graft trial to push through
MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has decided with finality that there is probable cause to try former Senator Ramon "Bong" Revilla Jr for criminal charges of graft and plunder over his involvement in the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.
In a release issued on Tuesday, February 14, the High Court said it had denied with finality the motions for reconsideration filed by Revilla, his former chief of staff lawyer Richard Cambe, Janet Lim Napoles, Napoles' employees Ronald John Lim and John Raymund de Asis, and Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos.
The ruling first came last December 6, and appealed by Revilla and the other petitioners.
With the denial of the motions, SC is directing the Sandiganbayan to "commence/continue all necessary proceedings in these cases with deliberate dispatch."
The ruling added: “No grave abuse of discretion was committed by the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan in the proceedings a quo. All the petitioners should therefore stand trial for the crimes they were charged.”
The decision comes at a time when there is a motion to quash pending before the Sandiganbayan, with Revilla's camp arguing that the facts in the information do not constitute the crime of plunder.
Revilla's new laywer Estelito Mendoza even said during a hearing last week that, should the offenses being alleged prove true, the crime would simply be bribery, and not plunder.
New arguments in Sandiganbayan
The December 6 ruling of the SC, affirmed by the en banc on February 14, said “the finding of probable cause against Sen.w Revilla is amply supported by the evidence on record.”
The SC ruling covers Revilla’s earlier arguments connected to alleged forgery of his signatures and “incompetent” testimonies from whistleblower.
The SC said that the issue of forgery “should be ventilated in a full-blown trial.”
SC also said that the “testimonies of the whistleblowers are the most integral evidence against Sen. Revilla, since they provide a detailed account on the inner workings og the PDAF scam.”
However, new arguments were raised before the Sandiganbayan in the motion to quash filed last week.
Using the "Enrile" defense, Revilla said the information lacked sufficient details, particulary the specific Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) transactions "that would constitute the required series or combination of overt acts."
The main new argument of Revilla, courtesy of newly-hired Mendoza, is the wording of the information. According to Revilla, the information states that the "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.
According to legal sources, that the arguments raised in the motion to quash is different from those covered in the latest SC ruling, so it cannot be established at this point whether the SC ruling will have an effect on how Sandiganbayan justices will rule. – Rappler.com