MANILA, Philippines – “Konting tiis na lang magkikita-kita na tayo sa labas (Just a little bit more patience and I will see you all outside),” said detained former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr after the continuation of his plunder trial at anti-graft court Sandiganbayan on Thursday, August 10.
Revilla seems to be confident at the legal strategy of his hotshot counsel, former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza: “At the end of the day, lalabas naman yung katotohanan. Nakikita niyo naman yung depensa ng aking abugado, si Attorney Mendoza at Attorney [Ramon] Esguerra.”
(At the end of the day, the truth will come out. You see how my lawyers, Attorney Mendoza and Attorney [Ramon] Esguerra, defend me.)
Esguerra, a former Department of Justice undersecretary, used to be lead counsel for Revilla until Mendoza took over in January this year when the plunder charges were set to move for trial.
Since Mendoza took the helm, the veteran litigator has stuck to one defense: the supposed ghost projects do not tie Revilla to the liability.
On Thursday, he insisted on it again as prosecutors continued to present their witnesses, local officials whose signatures were supposedly faked as beneficiaries of the ghost projects.
“These ghost projects enabled [Janet Lim Napoles] to misappropriate Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for her personal gain, not Revilla’s. That’s why we contend that these testimonies are irrelevant as far as Revilla is concerned!” he said.
In fact, what delayed the start of the trial was Mendoza’s pleadings pertaining to that very issue. One of the memoranda he filed was a request to the court to rule that any evidence to be presented on the alleged fictitious nature of livelihood projects sponsored by Janet Lim Napoles’ non government organizations (NGOs) is irrelevant.
When the Ombudsman prosecutors responded to that memorandum in April, they hinted a change in strategy from Esguerra to Mendoza.
The prosecution quotes an old Sandiganbayan ruling: “A new counsel cannot justify such withdrawal by the simple expedient of passing the blame on the previous counsel, who had supposedly not sufficiently discharged his duty to the client.”
Mendoza and Esguerra both attend hearings, but it’s the former who is more active inside the court.
This has been a repetitive issue since the hearings started in June. Whenever Mendoza repeats his argument, it elicits smiles from the prosecution table.
Lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio would always point to a ruling issued on June 8.
Part of the resolution from the First Division read: “It would be consistent and selective if the evidence that would be adduced to prove these bogus projects would only apply against Napoles to the exclusion of accused Revilla Jr. Besides, as correctly pointed out by the prosecution, the Information alleges the existence of conspiracy among the accused.”
“This is material and relevant. We have been sustained by the court,” Toribio told justices on Thursday.
Just like in the past, Mendoza again tried to block admitting the witnesses but First Division Chairman Associate Justice Efren dela Cruz allowed it.
Prosecutors appear to be confident, but so do the defendants.
When Justice Dela Cruz asked asked Napoles’ lawyer Dennis Buenaventura for his take, the lawyer did not contest to the witnesses and just said: “It’s our impression that in the end it will benefit us.”
Before Revilla, it was Buenaventura who said he is confident that Napoles will be free in “less than 2 years.” – Rappler.com