CAVITE, Philippines (UPDATED) – If elected president, Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte said he would “see to it” that Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr would be granted the right to bail if the evidence against the accused plunderer is weak.
Duterte said this in Bacoor City on Thursday, Janury 21, during an event attended by Revilla’s wife Cavite Representative Lani Mercado Revilla and his brother Bacoor Mayor Strike Revilla.
It was in response to a question asked by a member of the audience: “Kung sakali kayo ay manalo sa halalan bilang presidente ng Pilipinas, magiging patas po ba kayo sa paglilitis sa aming mahal na senador?” (If you win in the elections as president of the Philippines, will the trial of our beloved senator be fair?)
Duterte responded: “Ako, you can be very sure, lalabas ‘yan, lalabas siya diyan. I cannot guarantee na ‘yung kaso mae-erase, pero I will see to it that he will be given the right to bail.”
(Under me, you can be very sure he will get out. I cannot guarantee that his case will be erased, but I will see to it that he will be given the right to bail.)
His answer was greeted by cheers and applause from the audience that filled the Bacoor gymnasium to the brim. Bacoor is one of the vote-richest cities in Cavite.
Duterte was in the senator’s home city on Thursday to sign the pact that would make Bacoor a sister city of Davao.
Revilla is one of 3 senators now facing allegations of plunder for supposedly funnelling their pork barrel into bogus non-governmental organizations and getting a kickback. (READ: Pork tales: A story on corruption)
In October 2014, before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, a much-awaited testimony by a representative of the government’s financial intelligence unit revealed that cash deposits amounting to over P87 million made to Revilla’s and his family members’ accounts were consistent with the financial records of state witness Benhur Luy. (READ: P87 million in Revilla deposits, Luy’s ledger match)
The time of deposits occurred within 30 days after supposed kickbacks over the pork barrel scam were delivered from Napoles to Revilla, as recorded by Luy who served as her financial officer back then.
Duterte has said he would abolish the pork barrel system and would wage a war against corrupt politicians.
But in an ambush interview, he said that Revilla, far from being just a suspect, is also a victim of injustice.
“Under the Constitution, the accused is entitled to a speedy trial. If you don’t have evidence against the accused, you might as well ask for dismissal. Or if it is weak, grant him bail,” he said.
The crime of plunder is a non-bailable offense, but Duterte argued that Revilla is yet to be proven guilty. He pointed out that Senator Juan Ponce Enrile was able to “wriggle” out of jail and get released on bail.
“I am not saying free him (Revilla). They should be granted the right to bail if the evidence against them is weak. They have been detained for so long,” he said, this time including Senator Jinggoy Estrada in the picture.
But he clarified that this doesn’t mean he is softening his stance on corrupt politicians.
“’Pag proven guilty, jail na ‘yan (If proven guilty, they should go to jail),” he said.
He mentioned another high-profile detainee: former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
“Gloria Arroyo, detained for 6 years and the trial has not yet started. If you deny the speedy trial, it could be grounds for dismissal. The case is not moving,” he said.
The problem lies in the “overloaded” justice system, he insisted.
“The courts are overloaded. I know that they would want to finish the case, but simply the dockets everywhere in the Philippines are overloaded. You have to create more courts. If I had my way, I’d like to establish more courts to meet the challenges of crime and criminality,” he said.
Duterte and running mate Alan Peter Cayetano said in their platform that they plan to re-establish special criminal courts to ensure speedy trials on heinous crimes. – Rappler.com