MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Indicted Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr will remain in detention for the duration of his plunder case, until further orders from the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
This, after the court denied his bail petition in relation to the P224-million ($5 million*) plunder case against him.
In a 71-page resolution dated Monday, December 1, but released on Tuesday, December 2, the Sandiganbayan’s First Division found the evidence presented against the senator to be “strong.”
“In fine, the prosecution has established that there exists strong evidence that accused Revilla, Cambe, Napoles, in conspiracy with one another, committed the capital offense of plunder defined and penalized under RA 7080, and thus are not entitled to the constitutional right to bail,” the resolution said.
The court, however, resolved that the denial of Revilla’s plea for bail “shall not be regarded as pre-judgment on the merits of the case” to be determined in a full-blown trial.
During the 5-month bail hearing, the defense stressed on the absence of a testimony or direct evidence that Revilla had personally received the multi-million-peso kickbacks he allegedly pocketed from his connivance with alleged pork scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles.
Witnesses Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, and Marina Sula had testified that it was Revilla’s aide, Richard Cambe, who allegedly received the bags of cash on his behalf, often at the Napoles-owned JLN Corporation office.
The court said in its resolution that “jurisprudence teaches us that proof of the agreement need not rest on direct evidence.”
The agreement, the court resolved, may be inferred from the conduct of the parties involved.
“The essence in a conspiracy to commit plunder is not the actual receipt of acquisition of ill-gotten wealth by each conspirator, but that each conspirator had participated in the accumulation of ill-gotten wealth, directly or indirectly,” the resolution read.
The court found the evidence presented by the prosecution during the bail hearing to be “compelling.”
Among the evidence are:
- Testimonies of state witnesses attesting to the existence of Napoles’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)-siphoning scheme
- Testimony of Commission on Audit (COA) Assistant Commissioner Susan Garcia attesting to the irregularities in the transactions of Napoles-controlled foundations in relation to Revilla’s PDAF
- Testimony of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Director IV Carmencita Delantar attesting that Revilla had requested for the release of his PDAF to implementing agencies that Napoles’ NGOs were in partnership with
- Letters signed by Revilla endorsing the release of his PDAF, another letter confirming the previous endorsement letter
- A report from the Anti-Money Laundering Council showing Revilla’s and his family’s bank accounts ballooned 30 days after each recorded release of kickbacks in Luy’s ledger
Revilla’s co-accused Cambe will likewise continue to remain detained at Camp Crame. The two are in separate buildings in the Philippine National Police headquarters, with Revilla housed with fellow Senator Jinggoy Estrada.
Napoles is detained at the female dormitory of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.
Together, they are alleged to have conspired to enrich Revilla.
Two more of Revilla’s co-accused – Napoles’ nephew Ronald John Lim and her driver-bodyguard John Raymund de Asis – remain at large.
Revilla expressed disappointment over the ruling, saying it was “not the outcome we were expecting especially when we consider the facts and the evidence.”
“We cannot do anything but to respect the view of the court. But the fight is not over. This is a setback but by no means determinative of our resolve to clear my name. If this is not yet the time for the truth to come out; the right time will come,” Revilla said in a statement in a mix of English and Filipino.
The senator is set to file a motion for reconsideration, his spokesperson, lawyer Raymond Fortun, said in an interview on ANC.
Luy, who revealed the scam to authorities, said he is happy about the court’s favorable ruling.
“Natutuwa po kasi totoo naman ang sinasabi ko (I am glad because I am telling the truth),” said Luy, whose confession sparked clamor for increased transparency in the use of public funds.
Lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio, on the other hand, said the prosecution is now preparing its presentation of the evidence for the trial proper.
He added they will continue to move for the transfer of Revilla to a jail facility instead of the present police detention and the temporary seizure of the senator’s assets.
Revilla is accused of defrauding the public of millions of pesos by diverting his PDAF to ghost projects of dummy foundations owned by Napoles.
Revilla is also accused of graft for the misuse of his PDAF totaling P517 million ($11.54 million) – P224 million of which he allegedly plundered. – Rappler.com
*$1 = P44.9