Ombudsman to challenge Sula’s testimony in Revilla plunder case

Lian Buan
Ombudsman to challenge Sula’s testimony in Revilla plunder case

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'We have never been more confident in the cases we filed in court,' says Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales

BAGUIO, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman will challenge the testimony of state-protected pork barrel scam witness Marina Sula, who had claimed that prosecutors coached her into corroborating the affidavit of Benhur Luy in the Bong Revilla plunder case.

Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval said on Monday, July 2, that they will call as rebuttal witness the prosecutor in question, Tarlac Judge Joefferson Toribio. Toribio had been the lead prosecutor in the Revilla plunder case before he was appointed judge.

“I understand ang akala kasi nung witness wala na sa opisina namin eh, judge na sa malayo-layong lugar, siguro nasa isip niya, ‘yan na ang sabihing tinuruan siya. But we will see when Judge Toribio testifies,” Sandoval said in a Q&A during the Ombudsman Integrity Caravan in Baguio City.

(I understand the witness thought that since Toribio is no longer with our office, that since he’s now a judge in a far place, she could just point to him as the one who coached her. But we will see when Judge Toribio testifies.)

Sula was one of the Revilla camp’s only 3 witnesses in their presentation of evidence. Because she is state-protected, Sula was considered a hostile witness for the defense camp, until she said some of Luy’s statements weren’t true and that Toribio just coached her to corroborate these statements.

Sula even claimed that Luy forged Revilla’s signature on endorsement letters.

Sula’s testimony so late in the trial came to the delight of Revilla, who said he felt like crying out of happiness.

‘Viewed with suspicion’

Sandoval downplayed Sula’s testimony, pointing out that the change in tune came only after 4 years. In jurisprudence, a recantation of statement is “viewed with suspicion and reservation.”

“She did not repudiate everything there…. It does not mean that the court will acquit him just because of the belated information, which can be considered [an] affidavit of desistance,” Sandoval said.

An affidavit of desistance means the complainant is no longer interested in pursuing the case, but it will only be accepted if the prosecution can no longer prove the guilt of the accused.

“[Our] documentary evidence is very overwhelming, although I’m refraining from discussing it because it’s sub judice, but we are saying that while the prosecution was presenting the evidence, it resulted in the resolution of the First Division that the evidence of guilt is strong, and that he is denied bail while the trial is ongoing,” Sandoval said.

Revilla himself said they do not intend to submit documentary evidence. The Sandiganbayan is set to hear on August 7 the documentary evidence of Revilla’s co-accused Richard Cambe, after which the anti-graft court will decide.

This will be the first pork barrel scam case ever to be decided. Revilla is accused of receiving as much as P224.5 million in kickbacks.

Out of the 5 lawmakers charged with plunder, only Revilla is in jail. The 4 others, including former senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada, were granted bail.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales refuses to look at these setbacks as signs that the pork barrel scam cases “are falling apart.”

“This is temporary. There is now a full trial, and after the full trial is the verdict,” Morales said. “We have never been more confident in the cases we filed in court.” – Rappler.com

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.