Revilla camp wants to exclude P190M SARO from evidence
MANILA, Philippines – The camp of plunder defendant former senator Bong Revilla wants to exclude from evidence P190-million worth of Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) from February 2010.
The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan First Division will resolve before October 3 the Ombudsman prosecutors’ motion to include it as evidence.
Revilla’s camp blocked the testimony of Magno Oasan from the Commission on Audit (COA) who would have testified on the SARO. During a hearing on September 14, the court sided with the defense and did not allow Oasan to testify.
“The said SARO from 2010 is where the kickbacks to Revilla were based,” lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio told the court in the continuation of Revilla’s plunder trial on Thursday, September 28.
According to the defense camp, the SARO should not be included because it was never covered in the preliminary investigation, nor was it alleged in the information.
“To require that the SAROs covering the releases of accused Revilla’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the years 2006 to 2010 must be alleged in the Information would be stretching the law too far,” the prosecutors said in their motion for reconsideration. (READ: Navigating the PDAF scam affidavits)
The hearing on October 3 will depend on the decision of the court to include or exclude the SARO as evidence. If it will push through, it may be the last witness of the prosecutors before they rest their case.
SARO No. ROCS-G 10-00952 dated February 12, 2010 was worth P190 million. Oasan was the COA auditor who audited the transactions of the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) from 2010 to 2012.
Prosecutors insist that based on the ledgers of whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, and Marina Sula, Revilla received P33.5 million in kickbacks and commissions.
In their findings, Revilla was found to have “irregularly disbursed” the amount through NLDC to Agri-Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI), Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation (APMFI), Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI).
In these transactions, prosecutors said Revilla authorized staff Richard Cambe, his co-accused in the plunder charge, “to act and sign in his behalf all other documents needed to monitor the progress of the said PDAF projects.”
Whether or not Revilla only got P33.5 million in 2010 is not clear because Luy said “sometimes transactions are not recorded in his ledger because Napoles herself personally delivers the commissions to the legislators or their representatives outside the JLN Corporation Office.”
What the prosecutors are saying is that they have included in their initial evidence that Revilla got kickbacks in 2010, and the SARO in question would help prove that.
If it was not tackled in the preliminary investigation, prosecutors said it should not be a reason to exclude it.
“Preliminary investigation is merely inquisitorial. It is not a trial of the case on the merits. Its sole purpose is to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether the respondent is probably guilty of the crime,” their motion said. – Rappler.com